Fell hand defaced. Yesterday was the twenty-second anniversary of my arrival on these shores. I flew Dublin to Los Angeles and took a puddle-jumper down the coast, amazed by the stunning vista of San Diego’s harbor and the approach to the airport, low and close to Mister A’s restaurant and downtown homes and offices. I arrived with no ambition, a bagful of books, and about $3,000 cash. Looking back over marriages, break-ups, childbirths, miscarriages, kidney stones, and other landmarks of my life in America, I wonder how I am still here, still alive, writing under the bright California sun. My parents were sorry to see me go, but they’d already waved me off at the ferry in Dun Laoghaire years earlier on my way to live in London for a couple of miserable, lonely years, so maybe they knew I’d be back, defeated again by another country, sent packing with my paltry possessions and dented psyche. I vowed no return. One-way ticket. Still here. Writing. Teaching. Parenting. Planting berry vines in dry earth. Stories in anthologies and magazines. Book published. Mother in a home back in Ireland. Father underground. Eight tattoos. Two children. One divorce. The hair is grayer, thinner perhaps, though the hairline maintains. I’ve lived up and down the coastline here, from San Diego to Mission Viejo, to Dana Point, to Carpinteria. Baton Rouge and New Orleans, too. The accent wanes. Needs work. Reminding. Tangible connection to home. Spider’s thread. Home is a Barry’s tea-bag and a listen to the Dubliner’s on Spotify. Skype calls from brothers in Dublin, Cork and London. Home is the scar on my arm from our old neighbor’s glass-studded wall. Home is where the hurt is; in my mother’s slow decline, her arthritic fingers, the recipe books with her meticulous handwriting. A place of rain and music, words and worry, gravestones and faded photographs. Sometimes I hear of old acquaintances hanged in attics, divorced from wives, fighting eating disorders, spinning wool in dim kitchens where long ago I might have sat, reciting the blessing before meals. Those connections are few and far between, now, and my mind at peace more now my mother is looked after means I, too, am fading from view, like the old black & white negatives in her closet, my features softening, my shape less clear, and in a matter of years I’ll be more than half my lifetime in this new world. Maybe not. The future is never certain, the fall of a card, the roll of the dice, nothing is guaranteed us, which is why everything matters, the past and the future, both traveling inextricably in the same direction, both destined to collide in some epiphany under the shadow of Clery’s clock, or on a beach in Carpinteria at low tide. Either way, year twenty-three is under way and I go out to meet past and future, burdened by both.