The sky is on fire, and the burning orange-and-pink sun is cooling its toes in the water-blue clouds on its way home for the night. We’re on the road again, from home and through home and to home, as it were.
We’ve been in the car a lot these last few months - the last year, really, as we remembered tonight when somewhere just south of Bowling Green the odometer flicked to 25,000 miles … the odometer that read less than 100 miles when we bought this car just shy of 11 months ago.
Sometimes I grow tired of the traveling, but this last month I’ve loved every minute of our time on the road. Our trips have been restorative, full of life and friends and they have fed my soul in a way it hasn’t been in so, so long. I feel like myself for the first time in I don’t-know-how-many months. It’s like if I pinch myself now, I’ll actually feel it … the numbness of the last year is starting to wear off, and I’m feeling comfortable in my skin again.
Last week, we ran away to the mountains. At some point, I keep telling myself, we’ll finish unpacking the boxes in our new house, we’ll make new friends, we’ll start being able to name-and-claim Louisville as home. But for now, we’re soaking up the summer as it (unbelievably) winds to an end, and we prepare the coming winter we’ll spend snuggled up in all kinds of newness, knowing that our travels will slow, at least for a season.
Birds fly south every winter. I think I’m wired with the same basic instinct, but to fly north in the summer. Too many summers without flying north, and I start to feel like something is missing - or someone, perhaps, and that someone being a certain part of me.
I’ve been thinking a lot about home lately, and what home really means and how many different homes a person can have - there can't really be too many, can there? Maybe it’s summer in particular, and the way the sun brings her most spectacular shows to these late, quiet evenings, or the way a cool July morning makes my heart quicken because it smells and feels just like camp, and for a minute I forget I’m not there, and I reach for the gray fleece in my closet and want to race down to the lake, to see the morning lift up its foggy skirt to curtsey a welcome to the day.
The floors in our new house creak, and when I walk across them sometimes, I’m walking through the dining hall, with its layers-upon-layers of polyurethane-d floors, creaking in the same way that all old floors do, and I hear the green screen door clap a squeaky ovation as it shuts, a little longer every time as the ancient spring stretches and snaps back, stretches and snaps back. Sometimes when I think about that sound, my eyes fill with tears - I grew up in that dining hall, I spent my childhood summers ducking in-and-out of my mother’s kitchen, peeling carrots and sneaking cookies.
I think, of course, that summer does this to everyone. I’m hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t have a “summer home” - where you went every summer, and inevitably something takes you back there in your mind every time the temperature rises. And does anything feel like home quite as much as summer does? We all have home, and then we all have summer - a collective memory, whether you traveled across the country for 3 months, or you just spent every lazy day riding your bike around your hometown.
But, as adulthood grows more and more real each summer, I don’t make it back to my summer home very often. And two weeks ago, I was craving the mountains so much I couldn’t stand it - I needed something, anything to make this summer feel a little more like summer and a little less like a relentless parade of change. We went east a few hundred miles and were graced with New-England-like weather as we bounded around town in sweaters and raincoats, my heart swelling a little more with each step. Then we climbed, a few miles up to a very foggy peak, and we smiled at the cloud-filled valley below and things felt right. It wasn’t the same, nothing ever will be. But for a taste of home, for deep breaths of mountain air that fill more than my lungs, for new miles on my boots that give me a bit more spring in my step, I am thankful.
We’re in the midst of a sea of change. I’ve always heard that phrase, but I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced it quite like this … every new wave feels like it just might drown us. We’re paddling so hard and so fast, it’s hard to find time to rest. And this type of work, while ultimately personality-shaping, can be draining in every sense, and I’ve felt completely emptied of myself, of peace, and of God over the last few months.
The mountains were a baby step toward regaining my footing in this new reality, but they were an important one. So here’s to the next step, and the next, and the next - wherever they may take us.