Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Where the Heart Is

I am home. My sails are still flapping in the breeze, but my ship is in port. I have not felt this grounded in a long time, having only visited my hometown several times a year for the past decade. This is the ultimate cure for homesickness: coming home. I have unpacked the homesickness that has been dwelling in my belly for years and have stored it away in a drawer, perhaps in safe-keeping for future journeys. In its stead, the warmest feelings of reconnection with family, friends, and myself have been taking shape over the past week or so since we have arrived here. Something as simple as a bike ride reminds me of how it felt to be 15, tracing the same paths across town that I did in my youth, feeling the same burn in my thighs as I crest a familiar hill.

I left my hometown of Mercersburg, Pennsylvania when I was 17 years old, having just graduated from high school, on my way to college in Boston, Massachusetts. Every move after college (from Boston, to Moscow, Idaho, to Austin, Texas) involved, all at once, the excitement of the next step and a deep yearning for my hometown. Would I ever be able to feel at "home" again? Was Mercersburg the only place I could feel that way? What the heck was I going to do in my hometown if I every moved back? Despite my longing for it, moving home always seemed to be more complicated than moving somewhere else far, far away. I convinced myself over the years that "home" was an elusive figment of the mind and could be achieved anywhere if the conditions were right. But I never felt the strong sense of home I was looking for and knew deep down that in order to find out if Mercersburg really was "home," I was going to have to move there. My husband, who is also from Mercersburg, and I agreed that it was time to stop talking about moving and just go for it, despite the risks involved (mostly in regards to our business). Luckily for us, the opportunity presented itself and the move was facilitated quite nicely.

So, was I right? Did we really need to take the plunge and move to Mercersburg (or at least the Northeast) to truly feel at home? Well...yes, so it seems at this juncture. Despite certain aspects about the town that we could "live" without, it really is a special place, and many of my friends who grew up here agree (and have moved back over the years as well). Not everyone grows up in a town to which they long to return; I feel fortunate that I have and look forward to finally taking advantage of the many positive aspects about living here. Here's a quick list of wonderful things I have noticed about the area since I've been back (particularly in comparison to my former, albeit great, life in Austin):
  • We are now surrounded by green, voluptuous mountains with little valleys and towns in between
  • The corn is as high as an elephant's eye; the fields surround me as I go for walks with my dog
  • I only have 3 bars to choose from (yes, I actually like have less choices), all of which are within walking distance
  • There are only 2 red lights in Mercersburg and therefore only 2 chances to run into a traffic "jam"
  • Big, fun cities such as Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and New York, are just a hop, skip, and a jump away, easily satisfying any urges to live the city life again
  • Rent is cheap, and beer is cheaper

I could go on, and I may in later posts. Obviously, being closer to family and many of my old friends has already made the move more than worthwhile.

Note: My posts may be lacking in visual aid for the time being, unlike many in the past. I will hopefully have Internet access on my own computer soon, from which I will be able to post photos. For now, I am at the whim of family members' computers and Internet connections.

I am so glad I can keep up with my blog anywhere I go and hope all my readers are having a great summer!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Saying Goodbye to Texas, Part 2

We leave tomorrow for the great state of Pennsylvania! We are very excited, though I have been getting knots in my throat from time to time...very bittersweet. Here are some photos from our farewell party at the Broken Spoke this past Thursday for your viewing pleasure. It was a ton of fun and we thank everyone for coming out to celebrate with us! Alright folks, see you on the other side!

Max and Brechyn, on the way to the Broken Spoke

Brechyn and Larissa celebrate in each others' arms!

Brian and Ana

Karl (Yarrrrl)

We're two-steppin' fools

Howdy partner!

Ryan and Larissa dance one of their last dances at the Spoke

Everyone wave goodbye!

Hey Jesse Ray!

Ana and Brechyn snuggle

Things got a little wild toward the end

And a bit hokey!

After-party at the Continental Club Gallery!

Kari and Larissa get close

Larissa, Lauren, and Brechyn

And then it was off to Magnolia Cafe for some late-night eats!

Goodbye Austin!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Favorite Song Update #1

Hi Folks! I will be posting periodically my favorite song(s) of the moment. Since I have such a strong love of music, I thought it would be fun to share not only what I'm doing and thinking about on my blog, but also what I'm listening to!

For the past several months, my favorite song has been (and continues to be) "Cheap Like Sebastien" by Apostle of Hustle.

Check out their website - http://www.arts-crafts.ca/apostleofhustle/index2.html, click on "Music", then the "National Anthem of Nowhere" album, and scan through until you see/hear the song "Cheap Like Sebastien." I highly recommend this song and album.

Also, I have added to my links in the bar on the right side of the screen the myspace page of my sister's and my band, The Hello Strangers.

Happy Listening!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Saying Goodbye to Texas, Part 1

This Saturday, Ryan and I visited the parents of one of our friends in San Antonio. We had a lovely time with good company. We barbecued in their yard, sat around the dining room table during an afternoon rain, and relaxed in the muted, post-rain sunshine after a delicious dinner. As Ryan and I spoke to our friend's father in the yard, I started to shift my focus from listening to our conversation, to listening and noticing him in his environment - a big-picture view. I was reminded at that moment of one of the many reasons why I appreciate having lived in so many places around the country and world: I find myself in the welcoming homes and company of so many wonderful and interesting people that I may not have ever had the chance to run into. There we sat with him, hundreds of miles away from our hometown, the other towns we have lived in (such as Moscow, Idaho, and Boston, Massachusetts), with many friends and family scattered about. We were even an hour and a half drive from our home base away from home, Austin. We were both visitors to San Antonio and to Texas in a way (even after four years, I still don't feel like a true Texan). But what I felt in that moment was an immense sense of place, albeit a portable, nomadic sense of place, like something I could pack up and take with me. This, after all, was his space, the world he had created for himself, and we were invited to glimpse it and get comfortable in it, even for just a few hours.

I have felt this nomadic sense of place and belonging before, over the years of being invited into the worlds of many people out West, back East, and across the seas. We wave goodbye to them all eventually and head on down the road. But we never forget the glimpses, the snapshots we take for our memories, and the people woven into the fabric of our lives.

This evening I went for a jog along Town Lake, the section of the Colorado River that runs through the center of Austin. The immense amounts of rain we have been experiencing in Central Texas has caused all the waterways to swell, forcing the river authority to open the dams full-throttle. Our passive, mopey "river" has become a torrential deluge, charging with its army of white caps through the center of town. There is a point on the North side of the river path where the currents are at their peak (see above). It was there that my jogging feet this evening were hypnotized into a zombie-like stride toward the river's edge. I joined a small group of passersby, mesmerized as I was by the swells rarely seen in our fair city. I could tell everyone was caught in the middle of their usual Sunday evening activities - biking, jogging, strolling - when they stopped to see this strange occurrence taking place in their city.

Like a comet passing through the atmosphere, these waves were a fleeting site not to be missed. For those two minutes or so that I stood there, feeling my elevated heart rate slowing, I felt a connection with the strangers around me and to my city that I have loved for four years.

I am not saddened by these moments, or by saying goodbye to our friends in San Antonio, Austin, Idaho, or wherever we may drive away from in the future. For these are the gifts I have been given for leaping a bit farther from the nest than I could have, and keeping my heart open to anyone willing to answer my knock and invite me in.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Magnum Opus

I had the chance this evening to watch, for the first time in many years, the best movie I have ever seen: “To Kill A Mockingbird.” It reminded me that the greatest and most beautiful achievements of nature and man are often rare gems, not often found or experienced. When you chance upon one of these gems, you know immediately the great importance of it; how you feel all at once the weight of it in your gut and the soaring of your heart, just to have had the honor to experience it for yourself. With all the muck we have to wade through each day – watching our fellow humans display immense ignorance, apathy, bigotry, and avarice – it is comforting to know that true works of art, breakthroughs of science, miracles of nature, and pure kindness of heart are expressed and created every second of every day.

I am reminded that there is a greater reason for being on this earth besides the basic motives of propagation and survival. With the rest of the natural world, we humans share the ability and entitlement to express in some way something inside ourselves that cannot always be explained through logic or rhetoric. Creativity coexists with functionality. The spider’s web glistens with intricate beauty as it fastens its tiny threads ever tighter around the carcass of the arachnid's next meal. The flower not only inspires the bee to pollinate and continue the cycle of life, it inspires the human mind to conjure up the most poetic of verses. We have the ability to create films that inspire the masses, and piece together sound frequencies to form musical sequences that summon up emotion in even the most detached souls. Even the creation of a child demonstrates our ability to pass on, through the nurturing of this new being, expressions of deep-down love, emotionality, and ingenuity.

In essence, we were created to create. No matter what our religious or spiritual affiliations, this ability to craft, invent, and design is truly a gift from some higher power; from a source of unfathomable influence. But it is manifested from within us, forming like a seed inside and springing forth when the conditions are right. It comes from us and not from us, for we are in the universe and the universe is in us. And though there are those rare gems and masterpieces that we experience from time to time, every creation has been nurtured by someone or something in order for it to manifest. Of course, humans cannot help but critique everything that crosses our path. But we must remember that at its basic form, no matter what motive someone may have for making it, a creation represents something so pure and true that no amount of subjectivity can undermine it. We must bear this in mind as we walk through this world and experience its many creative expressions.

Photo by Ryan Smith