Settling In

It’s a personal best. I’ve now lived at the same address for five and a half years.  I know that necessities, moves and changes can surprise a person and I have no exemption from life’s disasters…nor do I want to imply a moral value to staying or leaving. I can only say that I’m glad to be where I am and I’ve learned a thing or two by staying here.

From my husband, I’ve learned from which direction the wind usually brings rain, where the falling, blowing snow will probably drift, as well as the related art of placing snow fences. I’ve watched potential tornado clouds flow like dark waters over my head, then felt relief because something bad didn’t just happen to me, my neighbors or the crops in their fields. We all watch with anticipation for the first signs of the corn spiking, tasseling and firing and the soybean leaves drying yellow. Harvest is the best time, a culmination of a year’s work and risk.

We built a house and we’re planting trees and gardens (I use “we” inclusively, although I must give full credit to my husband for being the muscles of the operation.) I’ve learned exactly how not to cover tea roses in the winter if I want them to survive in this climate. I recognize a rhythm in the turn of constellations, the rising and setting of the sun and moon, the solstices and seasons. We’re far enough from city lights to spot eclipses, meteor showers and even the occasional aurora borealis.

Around here, people welcome strangers inside if the weather’s bad and it’s not safe to travel. When two pickups idle in the middle of the street for the drivers to converse, you turn into the alley to get around them; you definitely don’t honk. I’ve learned to avoid gossip but also to be amused by whatever rumor is going around about me. When I took a chance to play my guitar at a local gathering, they made me feel very talented and appreciated. You can’t beat that.

Here’s the irony. If any of my neighbors or people in town were to read this, they could, by rights, laugh me out of the county for claiming to be settled. They’ve lived here all their lives. Their great-grandparents are buried in that cemetery west of here. They model how to enjoy and care for other people, how not to get snooty when somebody offends because that person probably lives near you and you’ll face him or her again.

Even the intention of staying affects everything about my life. Not only am I happy to take off my traveling shoes, but my extended family have “a place to come home to” in the midst of their own moves and changes. Maybe that makes them feel a little more steady, a little more recognized and a little stronger in their mobile day-to-day lives.

Staying affects my writing, providing a fulcrum for respecting and responding to other cultures, views and characters. It’s easier to recognize what and where I’m not, when I take time to consider what and where I am. That brings me a little closer to the what, where and whom of every person I relate to, whether in fiction or in flesh. This includes the driver who pulled out in front of me on the 55 mph county highway and made me hit my brakes. It’s not a problem, because we’re both from around here. In fact, I’m fairly certain that he’s the local funeral home director, so I did well to leave him with a good impression.

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