I have lived in Pennsylvania for 49 of my 54 years. When I was a little girl, my neck of the woods was rural (as evidenced, most likely, by my use of the term “neck of the woods!”) Many of my young friends lived on farms. I and my family lived next door to one. My cousins, aunt and uncle were our next-door neighbors. They had cows, pigs, chickens. They grew hay which we helped to bale on hot sticky summer days.
As I grew older, the landscape around me began changing. As I grew from a teenager to a young adult, I despaired at the housing developments spreading like a cancer across the land. Fields and woods were everywhere turning into shopping centers and parking lots. Corners sprouted banks and gas stations. My home was changing. It was growing too fast. It was becoming noisy and commercial and filled with traffic.
I used to write frequent letters to the editor bemoaning some of these changes, which I saw as ugly affronts to a more peaceful way of life. Fast forward a couple decades and I realized that I still yearned for that more peaceful life. And that it was increasingly harder to find it in the place where I had grown up.
My soul yearned to return to the Southwest, the place where I had lived for just two and a half years. I loved the wide open spaces, the great expanses of land and sky. I loved the mountains. I loved feeling the Presence of Nature that dominated in a landscape with many fewer human residents around to mess up the beauty.
It’s beauty of a very different kind, I grant you that. Some people can’t abide the southwest. They miss the green. They miss the grass and the pervasive presence of trees. Don’t get me wrong. I love trees. I love green, growing things. I love gurgling brooks and I love Pennsylvania farms. But something about the southwest feels like home to me. My spirit soars when I look over the vast landscape, when I see the mountain ranges, when I watch the sunsets or gaze in adoration at the canopy of stars at night.
There is a peace here that a part of me has been craving a very long time. I am not a hustle and bustle person. I abhor traffic and noise. I detest rushing around. I dislike rudeness.
I am an avid reader – of both fiction and nonfiction. I have read many a book in which the story unfolds in a small town, often in the South, in which everyone knows everyone’s name. I know, of course, that this kind of environment can be stifling as well. It’s harder to be different in a place like that. Everyone knows your business. Everyone has expectations of who you are, who you come from, how you should be. But nevertheless I found myself occasionally having daydreams of perhaps having a little café in a small town somewhere. I loved the idea that I would be able to greet most of the people I knew by name. I loved the hominess of it.
And now I live in that kind of a place. It took me a while to give myself permission to return to this part of the country. I had come back East to help take care of my parents. I love my parents and my family and the community of friends I have southeastern PA. And, at the same time, I could not deny that the still small voice inside me was getting increasingly loud, increasingly insistent. It was saying, I want to go home!
Home to where my heart sings. Home to where I open the door and look out and feel inexorable peace and joy.
I am blessed to live in a small home nestled among pinon and juniper trees at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. I find myself frequently going to the front door and opening it just so I can gaze out at the trees and the western sky laid out before me like this huge cinematic screen. I never tire of looking at this sky. Sometimes it’s a piercing blue. Sometimes it’s full of distant clouds. Sometimes the sunsets are filled with glorious color. Sometimes the view looks black and white because the clouds are dark and the silhouetted trees are dark and the sky behind the clouds looks white or pale gray.
There is silence here. When I step out of the house at night, it is absolutely, almost astonishingly quiet. But it’s not an eerie silence. I know that behind that silence there is a lot of Life. I know there are deer who will be grazing when the sun comes up. I know that there are magpies and ravens and other birds who will murmur, croak, and twitter. I know that in the evening, the coyotes will sing.
And yet the part of me that needs human companionship is happy here as well. Just three miles away is a tiny town not unlike the ones in the novels I’ve read. With one important distinction. The people here are generally open-minded and welcoming. They don’t judge you if you’re a little different than the average American. Chances are, they are, too. And, like in the novels that lift my heart, they say hi when you pass by on the street. They greet you at the post office. If there’s a line at the bank, they don’t get frazzled. They aren’t in a hurry. When they drive by in their car, many of them lift a hand or a finger in a gesture of greeting.
I have found my little town. I have found Home.