Sunday, February 16, 2014

Homesick - The Importance of Place.

It is by knowing where you stand that you grow able to judge where you are. – Eudora Welty

     In graduate school, I took a class on Ecocriticism. I took this class partially because the title fascinated me, but also because I was feeling a connection to land - to place, and I wanted a chance to indulge myself and examine what I was feeling and why. Ecocriticism is, essentially, the study of Place in literature. It is not the landscape or the setting, but Place almost as if it were a character within the text. It was a fascinating class.
     In the process of writing my final paper for this class, I read a book called From Where We Stand- Recovering a Sense of Place by Deborah Tall. The book offered a look at Place as it impacts us. According to some theories, wherever we live at the age of 10 is where we feel a deep connection. I refuse to speak for others, but where I was at the age of 10 was in Wisconsin - on the prairies - with the breeze rippling across the prairie grasses and undulating over the hills. With puffy cumulus clouds that seemed close enough to touch as you laid on your back, warming up from the cool swimming pool waters and with the sky matching the blue of the water at your side. With storms that you could smell miles away and funnel-clouds that arose in purple clouds - and sirens that sounded directing you to your basement's alleged safest corner - the southwest corner. With lake-effect snow that, at 5 inches, was a tease as you walked the mile to school and you only jumped for joy when a solid foot fell overnight. With the joke that Wisconsin has only two seasons: shovel and swat. And with snow that stuck around for more than a day.
     Flash forward many years. I have fallen in love with the mountains of Virginia. Autumn is my favorite - the motley of colors splashed against the rising, rolling peaks dotted with shadows from clouds enthrall me. I find a lot of beauty in all I see and in every season. Virginia has all 4 seasons - most of the time. But the winter here is dull. I cherish the days we get snow, even if the curving, hilly roads are too dangerous to attempt. Most of the time, though, when we do get snow, it is usually coated with ice or it melts within a day. It is not much fun for playing in and cabin fever can be even more realistic than it was in the frigid Wisconsin temperatures.
     On a few occasions, we will get a storm so powerful, or the temperatures will remain low long enough, that the snow will last more than a day. And on those occasions, I feel a tremendous homesickness. I've been in Virginia for 26 years, now, and I still yearn for the nights when the clouds insulated the air and I and my brother went out to shovel our driveway at 10 at night in hopes that our Mom would have an easier time the next morning. I miss the blue hue that night takes on when any and all light is reflected in the crystalline ground. I gaze, longingly, at the rolling hills here, serpentine tracks from sledders (sleds - not sleighs. The two are not interchangeable.) curving down until the bottom is reached and a host of foot tracks climb to the top. And I miss the warmth that can accompany the cold when you work up a sweat shoveling, or rolling a huge base to a snowman, or engaging in a snowball fight.
     I am homesick at the moment. I am so happy that the storm that hit us last Thursday has lasted this long. I love the fact that I got 3 days of shoveling in - at least an hour each day - providing me with a workout, fresh air, sense of accomplishment, and a reason for a back massage all in one. And I am so thankful that my son got to go outside every day this week to play without worry about wind or mud or ridiculously frigid temperatures and was worn out every evening, dropping easily off into slumber. Steve laughed at the frustration he's felt, having to trek into work -- he shook his head in exasperation and said he has absolutely no inclination to move further north. 
     These mountains are where he was when he was 10. And he loves these hills. When we take a trip to the beach, as much fun as we have, he sighs in happiness and relief when we finally get back to "his mountains." I know I will never be able to instill in him the same love I have for my prairies. And I know, too, that I am easily looking past the downfalls to my prairies. But I am relieved to know that, regardless of Place and Home, as much as I love my prairies, my time here has demonstrated that every place you try on can be a fit, if you give it a chance.
     Steve and Sydney are my true home. I miss my prairies, and I enjoy knowing I'll, one day, be able to show Sydney the joys I experienced as a child growing up on the lolling hills. But as long as I have my two boys, I'll be home, regardless of prairie or ancient hills.
     Where were you at age 10? Does it have a wonderful hold upon you? Are you still there and is that landscape a part of who you are?

Image of prairie courtesy of
Image of Appalachian Mountains courtesy of

Friday, February 14, 2014

Reminiscing while Juggling Tasks - Making My Love Known

We've been hit with the 3rd largest snow storm in my town's recorded history. It isn't THAT much, in terms of what I've seen as a child growing up w/ lake-effect snow from Lake Michigan in Waukesha, Wisconsin, but it is enough, what with our hills, curvy roads, and mountain passes, to side-line everything in the surrounding area for a few days.

That being said, today is Valentine's Day, and while I did have something special and unique planned for Steve (we don't usually celebrate this as a special day, since I'm thankfully conscientious of how important he is to me), the weather has side-lined it. It may end up being a birthday surprise this summer when there is no chance of a blizzard ruining it. :-)

Instead, though, I did what I felt was next best - and what I strive to do on a daily basis - I wanted to demonstrate to him, and to my son, what true love looks like. Steve had to go to work. He purposely drove a work jeep home so he could get in and out over the past two days, swinging by to pick up his employees, coming home an hour or more late due to impassable roads, etc. So, what could I possibly do to make his life easier once he got home from making sure the entire valley had water? That his employees were safe?

Yes, a hot dinner on the table is essential. But so is a driveway that is maneuverable, a happy child waiting to play with him, work clothes cleaned, folded, put away. I am happy to take care of my family when they do so much to take care of me. And Steve is such a kind soul - such a good Daddy - such an uplifting friend and confidante and positive influence in both our lives. He is worth the sore back I will have the next few days.

So, I bundled the kiddo up and we went outside to play. I cleared out enough for his car to come home and dug my car out so today's sunshine would make short shrift of the thaw. Syd loved the huge pile I made near the mailbox, and climbed to the top over and over, yelling in glee as he crested.
Then, no snow day is complete without the signature snowman. I have a kit that my wonderful sister gave us for Christmas several years ago, but I hadn't fully expected Syd to last this long in the snow (the past few days, we've lasted 30 minutes, tops). He proved me wrong and we built this guy, using gravel and mulch for the face.

My thoughts drifted back to my childhood, after we moved to Virginia. There was a huge snowstorm when I was in high school, and when I think of it, I automatically remember my entire family getting so excited because we'd missed our Waukesha snow so much. My mother couldn't make it into work, so she was home with all of us. We made a HUGE snowman in the driveway - at least 6 feet tall (if you know the women in my family, that is huge!). My mom went inside, gathered together several water bottles, and filled them with water and food coloring, and we completely decorated our snowman, giving her a dress, a face, hair, etc. I know we have pictures somewhere, but I will have to really dig to find them.

My point is, in building our snowman below, and the subsequent activities, I thought very fondly of the time Mom and I spent together outside, forgetting chores and roles and just playing. I truly hope that Syd grows up to have fond memories like these of the two of us, especially since we'll be sharing all snow days together.
After the snow man, Syd and I rested in the seemingly warm snow. The temperatures have risen to the high 40s, and it was downright pleasant to lay in the snow, staring up at the cerulean blue sky with nary a cloud nearby. I was struck by this picture, and I wish you could truly see just how beautiful it was with the sparkles from the snow reflecting off his skin.
He got tired of laying and started throwing snowballs at me. So, I did what any good Mommy would do and began to wrestle with him. Here, he is struggling to stand back up.
He continued to throw snowballs, so I talked him into building a snow fort so we could attack Daddy when he got home. This shows how tall it is! We'll both be able to successfully duck down and block any snowballs coming our way.
I built a fort for Daddy, too. After I finished, Syd wanted to test them out, so we had a snowball fight. Here's a solid launch he let fly. Suitably, it looks like it is in the shape of a heart! After a long day fighting snow, keeping us in water, and just being out and about, I know a snowball fight with our new forts will help Daddy forget his stress and kick off his weekend perfectly.
After we came inside, I got laundry going so we would have dry clothes to get into for our next trip into the white wonderland outside. Then, we baked a cake. One square pan and one circle pan. Cut the circle in half and attach with frosting to perpendicular angles of the square to form a heart. Syd loves to bake with Mommy, and Daddy will still have something special waiting for him at home.

How do you show your love in simple ways? How do you pass the time when the weather is bad? Share your ideas and perhaps we'll try yours next snowstorm!

Happy Valentine's Day to everyone - and Happy Memories with the simple things in life.