Another Day in the Country
Home again, home again
© Another Day in the Country
Finally, after 16 long months, I went home again! To California.
The Napa Valley was burned up and devastated by forest fires last summer. Luckily, we approached the beleaguered area after dark and I could only take in what looked like black and white photos illuminated by the car’s headlights as we rounded corners that were no longer familiar.
And then we turned into our driveway and walked into our house. I was home again.
Two weeks later, I’m home again! In Kansas. Ramona. Where the grass has greened and I can hear the lawnmowers whirring on a Sunday morning.
Thankfully, we approached this little town around midnight, street lights softening the dilapidated buildings on the main street, houses dark and quiet until I came to my house with the porch light burning and the inside looking warm and welcoming.
I turned into my driveway, walked into my house, my bedroom. Sat down on my bed. I was home again.
Traveling is like a time warp. I didn’t go half way around the world, as I’ve sometimes done, just half way across America, having strapped myself into a narrow seat and agreeing to be hurled through the air to a new destination.
Having gone through months of isolation from the wider world, I’ve been looking forward to traveling again. It was a good experience. People in the wider world wear masks without grumbling, it seems, social distancing themselves pleasantly even in crowded airports. Taking precautions. Getting vaccinated. Encouraging to note!
Even though I love being home again — whether that’s in California with my family or in Kansas, where I permanently reside — I enjoy travel.
I used to do it for my job — writing, taking pictures — which allowed me access to far off destinations like Bali, Singapore, and India. It’s a delightful challenge to go to a place where you don’t know the language or understand the customs. It’s an adventure that I relished even though it was difficult at times. I feel lucky to have experienced those places first hand because my personal budget does not stretch far enough to encompass those far-flung destinations, now.
And still, flying to California is an adventure. I consider it a “far flung destination” these days. The culture on the coast is very different from the culture of Marion County. I’m always shocked by the price of gas (almost twice as much as we pay here). The cuisine is unusual. I miss potatoes when I’m there.
I went looking for a bottle of water the other day, as I was waiting for my daughter while she was teaching a fencing class. Just plain water was what I wanted, but in this very touristy area, I found wines, and bottled teas, brands I’d never heard of, and all the “water” was either flavored or fizzed. I ended up with a bottle of some ginger concoction that the sales girl assured me tasted like “ginger ale” (on steroids — my observation). All I wanted was a dollar bottle of plain old water — available somewhere I’m sure for twice the usual price. Just not on this block.
At the end of my stay, I was home alone while everyone worked and my grandson was back in school. The doorbell rang. A Mexican man with a mask was at the door, gesturing toward a truck with a wood chipper attached, talking through the mask in broken English. I strained to understand, asked him to repeat what he’d said and then said, “I’ll come outside with you. Point to what you are doing and where you are going…” They were cutting trees away from the power lines that ran through the woods still standing around our home, our neighborhood, that was miraculously saved from fire. I was in the USA, yet it was a place where we spoke different languages. We were reduced to gestures but we still communicated. Each of us bringing who we were and what we could do to best this situation.
For me, traveling has been another one of those essential services. Not as high on the list as hospitals and grocery stores but still important — more like books and hugs.
When I arrived at the airport in Oakland, my family was there to meet me. My grandson, now taller than I am, came around the side of the van to meet me. His arms no longer encircled my waist but my shoulders, a shocking change. In our absence from one another, I’d worried this teenager had perhaps outgrown hugs — but he hadn’t. I’d been anticipating this trip for months, this meeting up again in person and not on FaceTime. I’d wondered what it would be like, how we would mesh, we’ve all been changing.
Our destination is seldom as we imagine, but we can embrace the differences that make our world so colorful. We can celebrate life, learn a new perspective, and find our time enriched at home again, on another day in the country.