It's a strange February weather-wise. No snow, and today the thermometer read 53 degrees. I was out and about all day without a coat.
A friend from New Jersey (former hometown resident) was here visiting over the weekend. We took a drive this morning and thoroughly enjoyed the atypical sun and spring-like temperatures, the winter grasses flat and brown but still somehow beautiful. The car ride took us into the hills surrounding the valley that is now (again and finally) my home. Jackie remarked that it's interesting to look at this town with eyes that have seen many other places; eyes that started here, left, and have returned with so different a perspective. We mused about being young here and wanting nothing more than to get out to explore the world, or at least some other version of it. We both went exploring, which -- for us -- was the right choice. I don't think I ever took a drive when I was a teenager in Sherburne that didn't have the purpose of getting away from my parents' house, away from teachers, away from what I thought was a suffocating small town, away. Today's drive was a pleasure trip. We were thirsty to drink in sights that to others might be meaningless tilting fences and sagging barns. This hour-long automobile stroll was an unhurried delight.
I've lived here full-time just short of twelve months. My outside self has changed, but more stunning is my inside self: how I've quieted. I take pleasure in sweeping the porch, or in slicing an onion. Sometimes in the middle of the day I flop down on the bed and talk to the dog, looking into his eyes and noticing how intently he looks back. A few days ago I found a box of greeting cards that I've been meaning to sort for ten years and sorted them: birthday, get well, thank you, Christmas, sympathy. Yesterday Jackie and I went to a Super Bowl party and heard a fellow say his house is two ridges over from a certain location. Not two exits or two blocks, but two ridges. I've been mulling this expression all afternoon, and in fact pointed out the ridges on our drive today. Life has become astonishingly slow, and in this slowness I've again found my life. It's as though I've been inhaling for 30 years and now, at last, I'm exhaling.
Never have I so appreciated the expression that youth is wasted on the young. I wonder what I missed growing up here, although I wonder this with no regret. I observe now how I observe. I notice the way the sun slants off a certain hill, and marvel that I notice. Today I pointed out tree shadows and wished momentarily that I'd brought my camera, although while I might have captured the image, I couldn't have captured the emotion. Happily, the tenderness of those shadows lingers in my mind and is not ousted by the frantic rush to a train station. I still taste the winter portrait there, like a nice wine.
All things happen for a reason. My return home twelve months ago seemed premature. Now I realize, as I ponder ridges and deer prints in occasional front yard snow, that coming back to this place where family ghosts tug at my sleeve, where the moon and the maples and the smells are as familiar as my own voice in a quiet room, was simply meant to be.