Updated: Jul 29
The last leg of the trip before heading home was all about family. We left my parent’s in Arizona and flew out to be reunited with Ryan at my brother’s in South Carolina. Ken, Mona, and their three kids Claire, Mitch and Todd relocated from Hong Kong four years ago, and just as we were making plans for our first visit in 2020, we went into lockdown instead.
So, here we are in good ol’ 2022, finally together in their new, beautiful home. The cousins were finally reunited. The southern air heavy with humidity, and birdsong, and afternoon thunderstorms.
After a few days in Greenville, we headed to a cabin on a river in Franklin, North Carolina (pictured above). We floated down a lazy river, went mining for gems, and hiked through the Blue Ridge Mountains. I’ve been told that the south can be brutal in the summer, but that was not our experience. Alongside the Georgia peach crisp, we were served up big helpings of slow days with pleasant humidity and very few bugs.
I was also completely taken by a place that gets sufficient rainfall, and the absolute crush of lucious greenery that comes with it. And the waterfalls and the running rivers and weather patterns now completely unknown to the parched and stressed land of California. It made me want to relocate as well, if not for family, then for the afternoon rain showers with an accompanying chorus of cicadas that transported me to past trips in Southeast Asia.
We couldn’t wait to get there, we didn’t want to leave. We’re so grateful for our time together with such gracious hosts that we get to call family.
AND NOW WE'RE BACK HOME.
Do you hear the relief? Do you hear the sorrow? That’s the crash landing that comes any time I transition from There to Not There. Coming or going, it doesn’t matter, that’s just me always reconciling the duality of being a homebody with unquenchable wanderlust.
So, we took last week slow. The tent airing out on the driveway, washing the camp gear, baking sourdough, hand-feeding our beloved hens, and feeling the earth under our feet again in California.
And it’s wonderful to see the maturity in the kids as they navigate around the house. They are all three much taller, and a month of physical exertion, discomfort, extreme heat and long days of driving made them more resilient, and maybe more grateful. One can hope that time away does that.
And I’m relishing the new batch of inside jokes and stories that have bonded us this summer. I think those will come in handy as we head into a new school year next week, and the start of high school for our oldest. I can’t tell you how many times I counted and recounted the three little summers we have left before she graduates. Three. Three. Three.
And as we settle back in, there is a contentment that overcomes me. This contentment feels really hard-won. There were days on the road, in the heart of the trip, that were strung together by my hardened heart. Out there surrounded by great open prairies and desert, I allowed anger and fear and disappointment to take me over. I turned up the music so I could cry again behind my sunglasses. I let old albums of forgotten songs take me way back and then walk me forward again through decades of painful lessons and bitter-sweet memories of a younger version of my life.
I let myself indulge in whatever came up - regret, disgust, apathy, rage. I let myself remember. I let myself forget. I opened the car windows and cracked open my heart and let it flow free into wide open spaces that promised to carry away what ails me, and then blow over my tracks so none of it could find me again.
And somewhere in the tippy top of the New Mexico desert a podcast found me where Martha Beck sums it up perfectly: in the process of metamorphosis, there’s a point when the caterpillar turns to mush. It is no longer what it was, but it is not yet what it is going to be. We humans are terrified of the mush state. Our egos won’t let most of us go anywhere near it. We find it impossible to set down the job title, the accomplishments, the identity around which we have constructed an entire life. If I am not that, that or that…then what am I? A terrifying and perplexing question.
I decided, for a few short weeks, and maybe a few more months after, that it doesn’t matter. Beyond unidentifiable mush, I am no one and nothing in-particular. Doing that sure does boil things down to the simplest kind of soup. One is left with just one thing to do, and that is to love.
It sounds so cliche. I can hear eyes rolling. But, I’ll tell you, when you ditch all of the hustle and bullshit things get cleared out pretty quick, and the weirdest thing happens. That stuff we’re all getting up to try and achieve is mostly already right here at our finger tips. Abundance, belonging, ease and freedom. We’re trying to get there through decades of hard effort and burnout, but oh my, oh my, we have mostly already arrived to the exact place we feel is always just out of reach.
I probably sound crazy and detached. After all, there are bills to pay and children to feed. The taxes will come due again and we need to keep the doctors appointments so that school can start again. Yes, unless off-the-grid-nomad is the new ambition then all of that is still true. But I’m sure there’s a better way to get there. A way that allows us to find ourselves - instead of losing ourselves - in the process.
I’m game to find out. I’ll throw myself and most of everything else on the pyre and we’ll see what makes it out. And when I get busy, it will be to write and to plan our next great adventure, while we still have the time and plenty of road ahead.