I drove my husband to work this morning so our son could have a car for the day. You might be wondering why the son wasn’t up at the crack of dawn – but if you did, you would not be the parent of a high school senior who runs track, plays in the pit orchestra, takes guitar lessons, cooks in my kitchen with his girlfriend, hangs out with his guy friends, and has a crushing load of AP and honors classes – and also finds time to daydream and read for pleasure and teach himself piano.
With the winter break, it has been a few weeks since we did this early morning run – and today I was struck by the sun – right in my eyes – blazing over the top of Massanutten mountain. In the dark days of winter, it was hidden, and would just be glowing when I returned home. This morning, it was clearly up and shining. I have also noticed the shafts of light that are sneaking back into my kitchen in the evening. By far, this has been the easiest turn of the seasons ever for me. I think at fifty – I am finally figuring out what I need to feed my soul in the dark times – whether they be external literal darkness, or the wanderings into and out of my unconscious.
I sit each morning, and look out over the woods behind my house. With the leaves off the trees, I can almost make out the distant hills of West Virginia. This land is lovely in the winter – bulbs resting in the soil, trees down into their roots, clear crisp winter skies, blustery winds, and occasional warm days with that earthy smell that rises when the sun heats the upper layers of soil.
And yet – even after 29 years – this place isn’t home.
Home is the arid and semi-arid spaces out west. Home is the Pacific Ocean in winter. Home is citrus groves stretching infinitely to all horizons. Home is live oak trees and rock and the scent of eucalyptus. Home is Santa Ana winds in the winter and marine inversion layers in the summer. Home is mudslides and rain and wildfires and earthquakes and floods and storms. Home is rain in the rainy season where it belongs.
I have made a home here – I am at home in this moist and verdant valley of the Shenandoah. I have connections and networks and friends and acquaintances and I belong. Yet there are photos that cause me to slip into the trance of place memory. And the scents of sage and pinion and the feel of dry air rising off rocks baked in the sun wash over me and I am startled to come back into this space with all its juicy and succulent moistness. Perhaps I was meant to live in the desert.