I didn't want to move here. In fact, I was terrified to move here--to this rural county on the Mississippi-Alabama line. Conservative dry county in a town with one red light, only two red lights in the whole county. I'd lived in places like Auburn, St. Louis, Los Angeles. I was living in a place I adored--Atlanta. I loved going to the Y, to Java Monkey coffee house, taking yoga classes and cooking classes. I loved the diversity. I loved going to the Farmer's Market and hearing at least eight different languages that I couldn't identify and seeing signs in the bathroom stalls asking users not to stand on the toilets. I loved seeing couples of all kinds, happy and at home in their town. I loved feeling like I fit in, like there were lots of others just like me.
But then heartbreak took hold. As we were driving back to Atlanta after H's brother's funeral, I had a strong, clear feeling. We needed to move to her hometown. That's what we did. Within six months she was here, and I came a few months later at the end of the school year. We were coming for five years. Then we'd decide where to go next.
We've now been here almost seven years.
I still miss my yoga studios, my independent coffee shops and bookstores, seeing five different kinds of eggplant at the farmer's market, the energy and culture of a big city. Seeing what classes the Cook's Warehouse is offering and what is coming to the Fox. As soon as it is warm enough sitting outside at Raging Burrito, drinking Margaritas and dipping into guacamole. I still miss a lot. I have a lot of city in me.
But there is much I've fallen in love with here. The kindness of people, that people here take time. We had more meals that you could shake a stick at once we brought these three home from the hospital. Yesterday morning, the new dryer still on the truck, the phone rang. "Donna said y'all had to go get a new dryer yesterday. Can my son and I come help you install it?" When there is so much kindness and generosity around you, you want to participate. When Brandon and Terry came to switch out and hook up the dryer, I had my kids go downstairs and watch for a few minutes. I want them to see that kind of task, that kind of consideration.
People around here work hard; they are always working at something. They are industrious and resourceful. Gardens, woodworking, welding, sewing, canning, cooking.
I love the pace of life here. People stop and take time here. They know one another. If you have a need, someone knows about it and helps you with it.
When we moved here we knew we wanted to try to have a few children. We thought three might be a good number to aim for. Well, we hit the mark. Our three will be three and a half years old next month. The time is going by so fast sometimes it makes my chest tight. Thankfulness abounds when I ponder my own lack of control: what were once two of my biggest fears--carrying three babies at once and moving to H's hometown--are currently among our biggest and most treasured blessings.
I can think of no better place for us to be raising these youngin's. Just this morning I was reading a bit of Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne. Here are just a few of the things he wrote about children being in nature: "Modern life narrows our focus until it is primarily visual...nature accentuates all of the senses, it helps us recover from the stresses of daily life and improves our capacity to pay attention...Nature invites exploration, direct contact, and experience. But it also inspires a sense of awe, a glimpse of what is still 'un-Googleable'...life's mystery and magnitude."
He also says "How satisfying it is for a child to know a place--and to know it deeply....Children feel more more grounded to where they live when they can learn to identify some of the common plants, birds, and animals they see in their yards and neighborhoods."
This makes me think of Lucia being excited to see the deer tracks and Elliott loving pointing out a cardinal to me. Mazie begging to go get the chicken eggs. Throwing rocks in the old cow pond. Watching the heron fly from the edge of the pond up into a tall pine.
Blue skies. Green grass. Ponds. Sandy patches in the dirt roads. Rocks to throw. Leaves that fall.
Blue Herons. Red-Winged Blackbirds. Fox squirrels. Cowhorns, yearlings, bucks, and does. Cardinals, blue jays, towhees, and mockingbirds. Wild ferns, tiny wild irises. Some springs the dogwood trees out in the pines are so plentiful, they look like snow.
Mazie was walking back up to our house from Nana's. I was waiting outside for her. When she got to me she said, "I saw a squirrel." Then she cocked her head and, thinking, said, "but it was red." I said, "Mazie, that was the fox squirrel. You saw the fox squirrel." I loved that she could tell he was different. I love that another day, the three and I saw him again and got to see where his nest is.
I love that when we go walking down the dirt road, they look for deer tracks. "Look, Mama, deer tracks," Lucia will say. She loves to find them and show them to her siblings and me. Mazie has started asking all about bugs.
Everyday we go to the chicken yard to feed them our scraps and give them corn and pellets. They love getting the eggs and bringing them back up to the house. We've picked up a feather and determined which chicken it once belonged to.
We've also gone to someone else's property in June for blueberry picking. Their blueberry bushes were the biggest I've ever seen. The three and I picked blueberries one morning, filling our buckets and bellies. I love that they are learning about where food comes from.
This year I am going to attempt a garden again. Lucia and Elliott and Mazie will each get their own little plot to tend. I think they are at a great age to start this. We are already starting to talk about what they might want to plant.
Before we moved here, when I would come with H to visit, I didn't think this place was that pretty. Just a bunch of pine trees, I thought. But, now that I live here. I think it is beautiful. It is in the details. Once I noticed the oaks and magnolias, ferns and acorns, its beauty began to grow for me. Each year I find it more and more beautiful. I am so thankful we live here right now, for this time in our lives. We are right where we are supposed to be.
When I first read the theme for this week's All Four Love, this place I am living was the first thing that came to my mind. These woods, this dirt road, this home. Unexpected, yes, but still a deep love.
I don't know how many more years we will be here. But I know wherever we go, I'd rather be living down a dirt road than on a cul-de-sac. And I know I will always have a piece of this place in my heart.