The one thing that made me return was a desire to feel like a human instead of a consumer. I grew up fifty miles from the highway, four miles from the nearest neighbor, acres of trees and mountains and emptiness between my family and the world television taught us about. I escaped to San Francisco as soon as I turned eighteen. I was seduced by the things that sprouted out of the concrete: by the bars and museums and taquerias. I loved the melange of accents, the anonymity, the idea that I could get on a bus to anywhere, anytime. But the concrete ruined my knees. My home was a warren of shared walls. Schizophrenics and addicts on the streets desensitized me to empathy. Everything was regulated. Nothing was easy. I could not even touch the earth with my bare skin. After seven years I was broken and couldn't put my finger on why. I came to understand that everything in the city is rented, impermanent, designed to be consumed and transitory. I understood the need for kids to graffiti some sense of ownership onto the world. Now I'm back in the mountains, and they do not care how I cut my hair or if I bought my jeans on sale. I can watch my father start a fire in the hearth my grandfather built. My nephews invent games from stones and water. The first thing I did when I crossed the Humboldt County line was take off my shoes.