Part One: Lone Star Walkaway Blues

“A million dead-end streets

and every time I thought I’d got it made

it seemed the taste was not so sweet

So I turned myself to face me

but I’ve never caught a glimpse

of how the others must see the faker

I’m much to fast to take that test…..

Time may change me, but I can’t trace time.”

—-David Bowie, “Changes”

The north fork of the American River, Auburn, California

The north fork of the American River, Auburn, California

Dear Diary-that-I-share-with-a-million-of-my-closest-friends,

It’s been six months since I’ve last written about the transitions that have occurred since moving back to California. Such a significant time has passed that I hardly know where to begin to catch y’all up on what I’ve been doing.

It seems like as soon as I got here I was both immediately busy and restless at the same time.

July and August were not nearly as brutal as I remember California summers to be, but the dry heat compared to the humid, swampiness of Austin was harsher. I like that my hair is no longer Diana Ross, but more Shirley Temple again. So I’ve got that going for me. In August I went to the first Quilt! Knit! Stitch! show in Portland, Oregon and I fell in love with the Portland culture and weather. We’ll get to the Portland thing here in the next blog. Let me tell you about the rest of the year first and then we’ll birdwalk our way back.

September….I can’t really remember, to be honest, so obviously it wasn’t very significant. I spent the time between Q!K!S! and Quilt Market in the garage of QuiltMama’s house, longarming like the wind. Oh, yeah. I guess I should tell you that too. I, Jessica K Darling, am 28 years old and I moved back in with my family. More specifically, QuiltMom.

I was roommating it up in Rancho Cordova, which is about an hour and a half from QuiltMama/Villa Rosa Designs Headquarters (let’s refer to QuiltMama as QM and Villa Rosa Designs Headquarters as VRDHQ, if we can?), but the commute was eating up all my design and longarming time. If you want me to do something, I’m the type of person that has to be made to believe that it was my idea. QM kept steering the conversation towards me moving back here, and I kept insisting that it was a stupid idea. I’M AN ADULT! I would say to myself as my inner child stomped her feet and cried little tears in the corners of her fictitious little eyes. And I don’t want to live in the country. I already done did it growing up in Turlock, and I don’t want to do it again. I’m a city mouse now, dammit.

“The country” I’m referring to is a tiny little podunk town called Smartsville. YES. I live in a town called freaking Smartsville, California. Population: 177. To put this in perspective, my high school graduating class was over 900 people. I have more Facebook friends than there are townspeople. We have no stoplight, no grocery store, and I have to go to the next town to get to the park to go for a run.

Also, I am no longer able to run after dark, as the trail is in the park in Penn Valley, but since it is in the country there are no street lights. I tried running once with a headlamp on. The trail is pitch black save for the little path of light illuminated by my frontal lobe’s new accessory. I had Childish Gambino’s latest EP in the headphones and I was feeling it. Just as a song ended, I came up to the only crosswalk in town (probably within a 4-mile radius, let’s be real) and I heard a tiny voice say, “Hi.”

My inner voices internally screamed “WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!”

My shriek of hysteria was actually quite good, if I do say so myself. It was pleasantly on key and would have made a great voice over for a B-rated horror film. (I’ve got the perfect face for radio)

my headlamp and all its dorky glory.

my headlamp and all its dorky glory.

The little tiny “hi” came from the town drunk, a maybe-middle-aged man that walks that trail during the day. I think it was him, I really can’t be sure though, because might I add that that was the fastest time I’ve ran that trail to date. Like, from a 9.5 minute mile to a 7 minute mile. Needless to say, I have lost my headlamp privileges.

The largest town in Nevada County is Grass Valley. Population 12, 860. So, roughly 3 of my high schools put together. My Facebook friends list is 10% of Grass Valley’s population, if that puts things in scale. Smartsville isn’t much to see (you know, all 0.7 SQUARE MILES of it), but the surrounding area is a conglomerate of little towns that were formerly gold mining towns staked in the mid-1800’s during California’s Gold Rush period. We Californians learn about this shtuff in 4th grade or so, along with the missions and all that jazz, but if you are not a full-blooded 49er, you may want to google/wiki the Gold Rush. You can thank the Gold Rush for Levi Strauss and his fantastic 501’s, as jeans were designed for the rough terrain and for mining. That’s your little tidbit of history for the day. Anyway. Grass Valley’s Main Street is historic, and many of the buildings are from the turn of the century or older.

Even though I grew up about 3 hours southwest of this area in the Central Valley, I know the Sierra Nevada area pretty well. My high school sweetheart was older than me, and grew up in Placerville. Placerville used to be called Hangtown, because at the time of the Gold Rush, these little towns were without local law enforcement and the lawless towns would participate in public hangings. Creepy, right? Placerville is about an hour, hour and a half away from Grass Valley, but Donnie’s sister lived in Grass Valley and we would visit every so often.

When I first got here, I was in a small state of shock. Austin (the boy, not the city) and I had decided to put my plans to move to Vegas on hold while Recognizing Real went thru some changes to their business structure. A franchised skate shop moved in across the street and has made it a real challenge for Recognizing Real to make money.

I went down to Vegas both before and after Quilt Market to visit and things are cool. North Las Vegas is completely different than the Sin City images conjured up when thinking of Vegas. It looks like a suburb, quite honestly. I had a great time meeting all the heshies down there and seeing my bff. I know how stressful running your own business can be, and I get a little worried about him sometimes, but he’s doing his thing and I’m proud of him.

Oh, Quilt Market. Let’s talk about that real quick.


Free Fall, one of the latest Homegrown patterns. Photo taken in the Empire Mine, Grass Valley, California

So I need to make a really stupid confession and I don’t want you to roll your eyes. I was more worried about the weight I’d gained after moving here than I was about the fact that I had EIGHT NEW PATTERNS debut this season. This was the largest amount of patterns I’ve ever been able to produce in a single season. And all I was worried about was my belly. I had also just cut my hair in a short assymetrical a-line bob, which to me only accentuated my chubby cherub face. I felt like I had ridden a time machine back to 1996 and Fat Jessica had resumed her reign.

I know, it’s dumb. But we all have our weak spots and mine is the struggles with my weight I had as a kid. I’m over the situation now and I’m focusing on more important, substantial matters.

After Quilt Market I spent about a month in Texas. Even though it had been a few months since I had seen my friends, I really didn’t feel like visiting anyone. It wasn’t them; it was me. Here’s the analogy I have for this:

I felt like I was like a Columbus or Drake (the explorer, not the rapper) and I had hopped in my caravel to explore a faraway land and then I came back on foot way later to report that my caravel had been shipwrecked and all of my findings had sunk to the bottom of the Atlantic. I was in a deep, dark place. I felt sorry for myself. I spent the majority of my time running by myself and taking listless drives out in Manor, thinking of all the past mistakes I’d made that had led me to this place. I mean, everyone wanted to know how I was doing and what could I say— I’m drifting at the moment, be back soon? I felt like I had made a mistake by moving back to California. I missed my house on Geneva. I missed my friends, my two guilds, and the life I had built there.

That’s it, I’m moving back to Austin in the summer, I thought to myself. I can’t do this. This is a mistake. 

PART TWO: After Austin Aftershock

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