Some people have a homeland; a place that their heart calls most beautiful on earth, a place they always want to go back to. Some people have lived in one township for generations. For some people, the land they live on is part of them, in their blood. The circumference of their world may be small, but their roots run deep.
I have never been one of those people. I was born in Missouri, but I couldn’t take you to the first house I lived in. I have no memories of it. I was less than two years old when my family relocated to Colorado.
If I had a homeland, it would probably be Colorado. It’s a dry land, verging on desert, and the browns and blues of it are restful to my eyes as no other landscape is. We lived on mesas, and the nights sparkled with earth-stars in the valley and sky-stars in the heavens. This where I grew up. This is where I have my first misty memory: a swingset and sandbox and a small neighbor named Mary Esther, in front of a house which I don’t remember.
After that, there were four more houses which I do remember. The first, glamoured and distorted in my memories by the eyes of childhood, had windows stretching wide and an open loft where small Jenny got her head stuck between the log railing posts. The second was an old house with creaky floors and a honey-filled bee nest in the eaves, and after living in it for eight years, we were summarily removed from the dangers of faulty wiring, and, several weeks later, watched it pushed flat. The third, a modern house with clear glass showers and all hardwood or tile floors, was the home where I learned to know myself, where I became friends with my older sisters and saw them move away, where my doors were opened to freedom. The fourth house was built on the edge of the ‘dobe wilderness, had thick white walls and high, echoing ceilings, and belonged to one of my married sisters before it belonged to us. This was my last home in Colorado and my last home as my father’s daughter, for this was the house I left when I got married.
Arkansas was a new story for me, in more ways than one. From the beginning, everything was different. When you grow up somewhere, you grow into a niche without much effort. There was no niche for me in Arkansas. I was lost at first and clung to my books, the only unchanged thing I had left. But then I was given work to do and people to love, and that is really what I need from my niche. My first job was a half year of teaching two little boys with hair of sunshine and midnight, and I fell in love. My second was a secretary job where I found the work my brain enjoys and felt valued for it, and I fell in love again. And then I made friends of every sort: the passionate and candid sort, the sweet and open-hearted sort, the analytical and inciting sort. And though my inside life was still unlike what it had been, I found my new familiar and loved it.
Outwardly, the colors of my world had changed just as drastically. Arkansas is usually green, with so much vegetation that in some places the vine-plants devour the beautiful old trees. It is a damp land, often humid, and even my hair was different in that air. But Arkansas has a beauty that arid Colorado never gave me. In Arkansas, there are gray days, when clear pearl-drops fall for hours and evening brings a white mist, wrapping soft around the dark trees. In the morning, the sunrise burns scarlet through the fog and melts it into nothingness.
Close to the end of my time there, Arkansas became the place where I became my Father’s daughter. And it was home. I knew the people. I had a comfort zone, and I had the confidence to fly out of it, knowing I would be caught when I fell. When the day came that we decided it was time for us to leave, I was surprised by how entangled my heart had become in that place and those people. It hurt more than I’d expected to pull away.
Now, here is Texas. State number four. Big, crazy Texas. It’s only been a little over two weeks. We’re still mere acquaintances. At first, Texas was only southern winter: cold, cloudy, lots of tangled and brittle yellow grass, and just enough rain to keep the puddles in the lane from drying out. And the first week I felt even more displaced than I did in the beginning of my Arkansas days. But I see hope. Yesterday there was sunshine and wind, like a Colorado springtime. And there is potential for niche building: work for my hands, people for my heart. I had some friends here even before I arrived, and I think there might be more budding. I like the way the sun sets here, and I like the way the people make me want to become more.
Texas is flatter and warmer than my Colorado home. It is more dry and has less forest than my Arkansas home. But I think the sky is bigger here.