Now that all the little the details of settling in a new home are in place: beach chairs, kombucha scoby, house plants, shower curtain, ect, and the flurry of company has come to a quiet close, I am feeling a good dose of homesickness. My sadness is mixed with an entertaining sense of irony that I am pining for the South Carolina country side while watching gorgeous sapphire waves of the Pacific crash on a quiet beach in Hawaii. The heart wants what the heart wants. My heart wants to go home. My heart is also once again confused about where home is.
Seven years ago, motivated by a consuming desire to experience and give “more” (not knowing what exactly that meant), we left a beautiful home and settled careers and bravely leapt into the unknown. We had carefully considered the cost and were willing to sacrifice what was necessary in order to seek a “country of our own” (Hebrews 11:8-16) We were somewhat aware of the financial and relationship costs- loss of income, retirement and health insurance, thousands of miles away from our older children, family and lifelong friends-but there were many other costs that caught us by surprise. We lost the ability to live “normal lives” as our eyes were opened to God’s kingdom on earth and His desire to have us join Him. We lost comfort, security, selfishness and even some treasured friends as our experience of God grew and changed our understanding (see note below.). We lost “home” in every sense of the word. But then we gained So. Much. More. We have been gifted with peace and connection and understanding and strength- and at the end of this season I realize that I am home. I AM home. I am HOME. Anywhere and everywhere. And God is always with me and will never forsake me AND there are always people around me to love and be loved by and His beauty faithfully surrounds me. I still can’t say why we felt the push to leave home and go on this journey, but I’m so grateful we did.
If you’ve spent much time with me, chances are you’ve joined me on a hike. You might even be one of the lucky ones who trekked to see a water fall and ended up sharing a dramatic helicopter rescue, saved a frostbitten dog in a wolf trap, hiked to the top of a Hawaiian volcano and gazed at a neighboring volcano covered in snow, rescued a heat stroke victim, frantically dodged wild cows, discovered the mother lode of blueberry patches or enjoyed one of the hundreds of amazing experiences I’ve had while hiking. I’m a nature fanatic and can’t think of many things I enjoy more than trekking out in the middle of it!
I’d just packed my car and waved goodbye as I left for Seattle when one block away I realized I’d forgotten something. Walking back into my bedroom, I found my mother furiously tearing off the wallpaper. I’d been gone three whole minutes. Unsure how to feel about my Mom’s zeal to redecorate and reclaim my space, I figured it was her way to deal with the shocking change of her first child growing up and moving out. Over the years we’ve laughed about that scene, but this week I relived it, only this time I was the mom. It sucks to be the mom.
Here Comes the Comeback!
After experiencing two spring floods that wiped out our newly planted gardens- twice, massive raids of new garden pests that refuse to respond to natural measures, fire blight that forced the destruction of all our beautiful apple trees, the mystery deaths of six out of nine turkey poults, a stubborn fungus invasion due to intense humidity and lastly, a hail storm that shredded the majority of our remaining garden, I didn’t expect to be humming “The Comeback” song by Danny Gokey as I walk through a mysteriously reviving garden! But here we are with a counter full of produce that I am begging coworkers to take home. I continued to hum that song today as I baked double batches of lemon/walnut zucchini bread, chocolate zucchini cake and chocolate chip zucchini bread and planned out next week’s menu inspired by this morning’s harvest- stuffed zucchini, cucumber salad, swiss chard quiche, stuffed peppers- it’s surreal to finally have produce after three years of frustration, sweat and disappointment. Here comes the come back!!
To Hail With It
Tuesday evening, I arrived home exhausted from a flurry of a day at the hospital when I noticed the garden gates flung wide open. Gingerly limping on my aching feet (good old plantar fasciitis, the nemesis of nurses) to the garden, I was shocked to see shreds of plants strewn all over the ground. My first thought was a family of moose had just enjoyed a dinner and dance party in our vegetable garden, but then I remembered I’m not in Kansas (Alaska) anymore. The ground was wet, so obviously a storm and had just come by, but the damage was far worse than wind alone could have accomplished. One of my housemates explained that a powerful wind and hail storm had just stopped by for a visit, leaving colossal carbohydrate carnage as his hostess gift (I didn’t invite him over to begin with.) Too tired and exasperated to survey the full extent of damage, I took my son out to dinner. On our trek to find tacos, we drove by a young apple orchard with dozens of uprooted trees. It was a very sobering sight, knowing the labor and money those farmers had invested and just lost.
It’s not natural to my personality to peacefully accept a major change of plans, loss, or inefficiency; I was type A since toddlerhood and my earliest memories revolve around what I wanted to accomplish and how I could motivate those around me to cooperate. Ask my siblings; they laugh about my slave driving tendencies as a juvenile, and my comical moments of pulling on their ears in frustration while trying to get them to clean their rooms or sweep the kitchen.
Yesterday I took a deep breath before diving into a painful chore list. After burying my sweet broody hen and her almost hatched eggs in the compost pile, I chopped down seven beautiful eight-foot-tall apple trees we planted as seedlings; for two and a half years I’ve fussed over them with natural sprays, homemade compost and water (their first summer was a record drought and our irrigation broke, so I hauled five gallon buckets through the orchard to keep them alive.) Isaac and Grace scurried with me to catch our three pet garden ducks so I could deliver them to the butcher; trying to beat the rain, I frantically shoveled a truckload of mulch in the exhausting effort to save large parts of the garden Bermuda grass continues to hold hostage despite an entire winter of laying feed sacks and mulch to control it. The evening found me reseeding and replanting the many tomatoes, squash, peppers and berries that I’ve already replanted and replaced two or three times this year.
How to Grow a Sweetheart
I used to admire those verdant, lush grapevines, defiantly creeping over fences and barns, growing gigantic from years of neglect. Artistic and free, one has to marvel at their natural beauty; but when I began to focus on fruit production I learned to view all that greenery as a thief to the ultimate goal, sweet grapes. Sugar content is the key to good wine, and sweetness is what one hopes to experience when they crunch down on a grape.
After a lifetime in Alaska enduring REAL winters, I’m surprised to find myself suffering an intense case of spring fever while living in the south. It didn’t even get “cold” until December, snow is rare (and it melts within a few days), and it’s warm enough to work outside year round. Yet, the trees are naked, the flowers vanished and the fields monochrome brown, frozen in time. I’m anxious for color, growth and birdsong. While traveling familiar backroads, my heart deflates to see how ugly and dead the land appears- not a leaf or flower in sight.