“We must take care to open and bloom naturally and leisurely and keep the center.”
In the smile of a stranger, I found home.
I was pushing Casey in the stroller, walking along the river. The sun was high and hot in a blue sky, the birds were singing, turtles warmed themselves along fallen logs. As the weather softens into summer these beautiful days call for long, leisurely walks along the water. This particular day, we were enjoying identifying the birds and feeling the sun warm our shoulders and our toes. The paved walkway was busy: men in business suits, jackets slung over their arms, groups of women walking together on their lunch break; a man jogged by listening to rap music, and a couple holding hands moved to the side as we passed, the woman standing slightly behind the man, holding onto his hand, lightly touching his shoulder with her fingertips.
In the warm weather, everyone seems friendlier. People wave to Casey as we pass, joggers give a quick smile or a nod, people laugh at Lucy, our tiny dog, walking along side of us, her tongue lolling out of her mouth as she grins in the heat. A woman, with a blonde ponytail, walked by in her yoga capris, earbuds connected to her iPhone. She smiled at us, glancing first at Casey and then meeting my eyes as she said, “Hello!” Just a simple, genuine hello but in that moment, I felt connected. I felt like I was part of a larger community of people who love this city, who take advantage of it; people who have made their lives here and call it home, who are happy here. I felt at home.
It’s ironic to me that this place, which I have run away from again and again, is now the one place I want to be the most. It has taken a while to get to this point. When I first moved here, as an insecure yet optimistic 14 year old, I was convinced that one day I would leave for the Golden hills of California and never return. But three years after I did just that, I found myself once again back in the Midwest, confused and hurting, unsure of what I was supposed to be doing or who I was supposed to be. I spent a few years biding my time until I once again found a reason to move away, this time to Seattle.
I loved Seattle, loved experiencing it with my, now, husband. I relished the days and nights we spent exploring the city, finding jobs to support ourselves, setting our own schedule, our own rules. And yet there was always something missing, something that was harder for us to find in a big city- a sense of community. We were far away from family and it was an expensive plane ride to go home. When I became pregnant, we found ourselves longing for change once again and wondering what we were going to do when the baby came. As often happens when you simply let things unfold naturally without forcing them, the universe and the generosity of the people who love us combined to give us the opportunity we had only dreamed about and whispered of in quiet moments. And so we came home.
I don’t regret that decision for a minute. We’ve been truly fortunate to have such wonderful, supportive families and friends who opened their arms to us upon our return. The kindness we have experienced is sometimes overwhelming.
Periodically, I catch a glimpse into the lives of friends who are still single, living a life I once dreamed of, in cities around the world. I find myself envious of their autonomy, their nights of limitless freedom. But then I remember that perhaps that isn’t their whole story. Many, many of these friends are happy and at peace with their lives, but I imagine that in their quiet moments they too have feelings of wanting something different, whether it’s a family or a quieter life, or simply a different apartment. Most people have longings for something…else, hence the saying “the grass is always greener.” The hardest thing is to find your center so that you are at home wherever you are. It’s hard to see the inner turmoil of those who have not found this, but it is easy to see those who have. They shine as if illuminated from the inside. It is difficult to hang onto the feeling 24/7 but, increasingly, I too feel this inner illumination.
For a long time I thought that I could force this place to be home. If our art was hung properly, our closets organized…it turns out it was something inside of me that had to be given time to flower, to find the right fit. That’s the way of life isn’t it? It happens without your consent. You can’t force a place to be home anymore then you can force a person to like you or force yourself to be someone you’re not. But when you finally let go and get out of your own way, life just sort of opens up; like a flower. It reveals itself in its own time and with proper attention and nourishment, it presents you with a thing of beauty.
Feeling this way, being centered and sure, feeling a part of a larger community, also brings with it openness to my creative energies and I’ve been rewarded with a wealth of inspiration lately. Maybe its the extra dose of Vitamin D I’ve been getting or the fact that with Casey’s Grammy in town this past week I had some extra time to indulge in my artistry. Whatever it is, it feels good. It feels…like I am home.
I made this mobile for Casey. I call it ” A bit about the birds and bees.” I love how it turned out. I want to make another one for our bedroom, it’s so pretty!
We also planted a small herb garden in a container on our back deck:
Here are some other recent pics:
Casey making sure I’m seeing the Geese along the river. (That’s strawberry on his lip.)
Making silly faces on our walk.
Enjoying the sunshine with Casey’s Grammy- Casey’s escaping!
Finally got him to stay still for a decent group selfie.
Casey loves going down the slide. He’s such a little dare devil! Here I am going down with him but he gets a thrill sliding down by himself and into my waiting arms.