If you are looking for him, he’s probably by the fire reading.
The word home summons up a place….that you have rich and complex feelings about, a place where you feel, or did feel once, uniquely at home, which is to say a place where you feel you belong and that in some sense belongs to you, a place where you feel that all is somehow ultimately well even if things aren’t going all that well at any given moment.
– Frederick Buechner
Late afternoon sun filled the cabin with warmth as my plane descended to PDX on a Friday in late September. For the first time in 14 years (and really my entire life) I was flying into Portland, but not coming home. Tears choked my vision as I flooded with the memories of key conversations and decisions that shaped this moment.
That weekend in Oregon was short and full. I soaked in the sun, the people, the projects (and our Ginger puppy love). Everything about the weekend would have indicated I was right where I belonged.
But David was back in Alaska texting me about the first snow of the season and taking the boys on an adventure to explore Hatcher Pass.
So that Saturday night I posted this on Facebook: David Searls took our boys on a magnificent Alaskan adventure and then posted pictures on Facebook. He knows how to remind me what I love most of all! I’ll be home soon.
I got on an airplane very early Monday morning and flew home.
The little red pin at the very top is where I shop now – far from the Oregon pins I know so well.
We’ve had many visitors from Oregon this winter. (Indeed last summer I whined about how NO ONE would visit me in the winter of my dread and thankfully I was wrong.) These frequent visitors have helped to diminish the impact of the great distance. But when I left my friend at the airport in late January and headed back home to a calendar with no more scheduled guests I felt my panic brain begin to fire. What am I doing and why are we here??
I’ve made some intentional choices to embrace this Alaskan adventure and I’m lucky because mountains and snow really do speak the language of my soul, but still I’ve felt cut loose and untethered here in this land so very far from home.
As I worked to breathe through the rising panic that Monday morning I think it was no accident that my Pandora station played an outlier song I really had never heard before (I am pretty much pop culture illiterate and ever grateful for google). Settle down. It’ll all be clear. Don’t pay no mind to the demons, they fill you with fear. If you get lost you can always be found…..
…..Just know you’re not alone. Cause I’m gonna make this place your home.
This weekend marks 6 months of living in Alaska. I look out my window this afternoon and watch the falling snow obscure my magnificent mountain view.
And I know for sure: right now I belong right here.
I saw a picture of a handsome curly-haired birthday boy on Facebook last week. When his Teacher-Mom took her maternity leave 10 years ago, I taught her 4th grade class. I was a December graduate with a master’s degree in Teaching and in January 2003 that was my first teaching job.
I loved teaching. The challenges, the relationships, the creativity, the opportunities. My imagination easily skipped ahead and framed a future with me as Teacher-Mom, my own 2-3 kids traipsing the halls of the school where I taught. Of course I would continue to take classes in educational development and ultimately pursue administration, or some other education specialty. This scenario was not unfounded. After wandering years, I really had found a career that fit and I could map the road ahead.
The curious thing about the auto accident that ended my life was that I lived through it – Kara Swanson
Kara Swanson suffered a brain injury as a result of a car accident and I read her story, I’ll Carry the Fork: Recovering a Life After Brain Injury, while I worked on recovering from my own. Recovery is a tricky word because it indicates a return to previous condition, but brains often don’t recover like broken arms recover and I’ve spent these past 7.5 years learning what this means. Unlike a broken arm, which has a general timetable for healing and return to normal function, there aren’t many helpful outlines for brain recovery and you don’t know what recovery will actually look like.
Mine has been a long, disorienting journey filled with frustration, anger and fear. It’s a mixed up story because I have recovered what appears to be my previous condition. But David says he’s married to his second wife. Fundamental changes in the way my brain processes and filters information and sound have changed my life. I lost the ability to manage and lead the busy learning environment of an elementary classroom without flooding my brain and draining my energy.
“….never forget that life doesn’t follow the plans we make just because we made them. We have to allow for change, prepare for it, seek positive results from it. We have to understand that tragedy, sadness and unexpected challenge may wreak havoc at any time, and leave us facing hard work to recover a life” (142).
I copied this line out of Kara Swanson’s book 14 months after my car accident. I was still in the early stages of my own healing and recovery work and I couldn’t see the road ahead.
How well I know the truth in her words. As I write here, my goal is to unpack not only my experiences and understandings around loss and grief, but also what I’ve come to know of goodness and hope.