“I had come back to stay. I hoped to live here the rest of my life. And once that was settled I began to see the place with a new clarity and a new understanding and a new seriousness.” – Wendell Berry, Native Hill
The leaves are changing slower than last year, but we’re better friends now with the trees, so maybe they’ve given up on trying to impress us. Or perhaps it has been unseasonably warm — or maybe too wet — or maybe I should give them more credit and they’re just trying to keep things interesting. Nevertheless, we will not be taking family pictures under the same tree across the road this week because it hasn’t given way from green to golden and welcomed the Fall yet.
We hiked down to the creek on Sunday and found Kate’s glasses outside the yard fence that she had poked through the holes into the forest for fun. Seeing as we have averaged only a monthly trip to the creek as of late (if that), I consider the idea of a late-afternoon hike to be divine intervention, mostly as an answer to: where in the world are Kate’s glasses?
The mosquitos were worse downhill during our walk, and the old path started overgrowing in our absence. We haven’t lived here long enough to have a “regular” way down there to where the water ripples around the bend — we sort of just wind and wander over fallen trees and mud puddles — but habits will be formed as they do when one settles in. And that’s what we’re doing.
If one’s life were made up of neatly organized chapters, I suppose this rainy day would fall somewhere into the first few pages of my life’s chapter titled, Settled. For this “settling” is a new chapter to me, the child of an Air Force officer who lived on three different continents, attended 6 different schools before college, and traveled every handful of years into my adult life.
I learned my first English words in Japan. I splashed in the salty oceans of Hawaii. I woke up to flaky, chocolate croissants in Paris on my 13th birthday — and attended Oktoberfest long before I could enjoy the heavy steins of rich, frothy beer. I spent summers on the hot porch of my Grandma’s farmhouse in Texas, reading books next to panting dogs and a glass of cold iced tea. After university, I traveled once again (this time on my own) to pursue a career in advertising. And it was during this time that I met the man who I knew immediately was, as Tracey Chapman says, “where all my journeys end.”
Meeting my husband was the end of one adventure and the beginning of an entirely new one, and next month it will be a decade from that first serendipitous evening we introduced ourselves to each other. These ten years, full of change and growth and love, seem long and short for all the very same reasons.
When we met, we both worked outside the home — now, we both work inside our home. He, at a computer during the day and on the land on the weekends and evenings, and often, also, on the livingroom rug while our four young children climb all over him wanting to play “airplane” or simply snuggle.
I also work from home, but not in the same sense that he does. Most of my job duties are spent feeding and teaching and rocking and cleaning and loving children and in this work, I have learned more about life than all the jobs I have ever attempted.
There is a timelessness in this place. I sit here on this rainy day gazing at tree tops that perhaps my grandchildren will gaze at. I look at these walls and these neighbors and these country woods with “a new clarity and a new understanding and a new seriousness” of someone who is here for the long haul.
I don’t know why the term “settling” can have a feeling of inferiority to it. As though it were just a consolation instead of the very thing you were looking for all along.
Maybe we’ll tramp over into the woods behind the wildflower field for family pictures this week into the cleared spot where the pine needles have settled and become one with the earth. We’ll stand on the ground that is new every day, but that owes all it is to what has come before.
We’ll work on the chicken coop and check on the garden, have war with the ant beds and mumble about the weeds, and we’ll work and we’ll love and get lost in the difference.
For we are home.