Tuesday, August 24, 2010


"You'll be fine." He looked out the window and sipped at his drink again. "The traffic might be rough getting through Columbus, but after that, you should be clear."
My brother, whether he meant to or not, sounded like my dad. A few minutes later, he and my sister-in-law left to go to work. And I left to go home. But not yet. There was one place I had to go first.
Shifting into the turn lane at Carroll, I wondered if it was worth it. As the road wound up and down, the green hills came into view. The morning exactly fit the mood - grey skies, no rain, low humidity.
There were runners on the road into the park. Of course. The weather was too good. Besides, the girls probably had a meet coming in the next week. And to top it off, they were wearing "Tigers XC" shirts. Naturally. I recognized nobody. How fast ten years go.

I parked, then started up the hill. Why is it always less steep and shorter in memories? Of course, I used to take it at a run, not at a brisk walk with a cup of half-finished chai in one hand and keys in the other. Right at the top of hill. If I had more time, it would have been left, through the meadow, then up the really steep hill (too steep to lie about it in memories) and into the place by my favorite route. Instead, it was the shortcut. More puffing, then the top.

It was even more beautiful than I remembered.
The trees, the grass and flowers seemed to shimmer. Everything was extra green, as if it was spring and not late August. No one else was there.
At such times the Venite comes naturally:

"Oh come let us sing unto the Lord/Let us make a joyful noise unto the rock of our salvation/Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving/And make a joyful noise unto Him with psalms./For the Lord is a great God/And a great King above all gods/In His hand are the deep places of the earth/the strength of the hills is His also./The sea is His and He made it: and His hands formed the dry land..."

The "joyful noise" was barely above a whisper. There were too many things to hear, and see, and smell, and taste, and touch. The light breeze was saying "Good morning!" to the treetops; the vine on the lattice was looped as delicately as if invisible fingers had placed it there; the fresh scent of flowers before the day's heat; the sweet taste of honeysuckle; the touch of dewy grass on feet.

This place was - no is - special to my family. We never owned it. It owned us. It's a place to go to enjoy each others' company, to reflect, to pause for a day or an afternoon. We celebrated birthdays and other occasions up there. Sometimes the occasion was nothing more than a beautiful day.

The irony is I never wanted to move to Ohio. It took me a long time to feel like it was home, and even now there is a certain ambivalence. But this place feels like home. Maybe if my parents still lived in their former house, I would feel differently. But I doubt it.

It was great fun to see old friends again and realize that friendships made in school don't have to fade. It was wonderful to witness a dear friend getting married to a wonderful man, and share in their joy. It was comforting beyond measure to visit with church family. Talking with one of them on Sunday, the comment was made that "other churches are friendly, but this is home." I didn't want to cause offense, but I consider my church family in Illinois, well, family too. They're all family to me. Sometimes I think, oh wouldn't it be great for so-and-so in Ohio to meet so-and-so in Illinois? And then I remember they will. If not in the "Shadowlands", as C.S. Lewis put it, then "beyond the Stable door".

As I left and drove back toward the highway, it was fitting that the song playing on the radio was Miranda Lambert's "The House That Built Me."

If I could just come in, I swear I'll leave
Won't take nothing but a memory
From the house that built me.

Part of the house that built me doesn't have a roof, except for the sky. There are no walls, only trees, and the floor is grass.


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