I'm the mossy pebble in a rolling-stone family. I hate to admit it, but I have never much cared to travel. My mother (who once went to live in Haiti to shake a case of the blues) and my husband (who rafted down the Amazon in a dugout canoe for a lark at age 17) politely ignore the fact that my idea of adventure is to check out four "due in seven days" library books on one visit.
"Travel makes you view your world in a whole new way," my mother told me.
"Hmm," I said skeptically. If I'd foreseen last summer, I might actually have paid attention.
Professional and family doings sent me traveling by plane, bus, and automobile. I left behind my beloved Oregon coast to head for North Carolina. To Los Angeles. To Kansas. Through Oklahoma to Texas. To my childhood home of Willows, in California's Sacramento Valley. To San Francisco. To Reno, Nev.
If I were to put pins in every spot on the map I visited, I'd have to invest in a box. I found myself lip-synching the plane attendants' safety talk.
As my husband oohed over North Carolina's lush greenery, I said, "It is beautiful, but nowhere near as gorgeous as home." Homesickness nibbled at me.
When he aahed at the evening lights of Los Angeles, I agreed - up to a point: "Lovely. But nothing beats a clear night at home with a million dazzling stars glittering like diamonds against the black-velvet heavens."
In Wichita, Kan., our daughter-in-law and granddaughter strolled with us through a neighborhood of beautiful old houses and shade trees in a bathtub-gentle dusk. Later, Craig said, "What a wonderful walk! Sidewalks, no wind, evening warmth! Admit it, we have nothing like this near us."
"True," I said. "But a dawn ramble on the beach, no one else to be seen anywhere! The morning sun slanting through mist above the firs. Pelicans fishing and a seal swimming alongside!"
Returned to our hearth for good and at last, I called Mom. "I can't tell you how thrilled I am to be home, finally! My own house! It's never looked so good. I'm grateful every second."
"What did I tell you?" Mom said. "Travel makes you see your world in a whole new way."
"Hmm," I said skeptically.
When I put the receiver down, I meandered through our house. I stared out the windows at our flower beds, the vegetable garden, at the fir-and-alder-covered hills beyond. I heard the distant pound of the Pacific Ocean. A hawk's dusky shadow circled slowly on the driveway while its owner shrieked overhead.
I experienced all this and more. Much more. Because Mom was right. I not only have my own home, reclaimed and sharply reappreciated. Now I also have North Carolina fireflies flashing through evergreens like stars gone berserk. Sweetly fragrant moonflowers aglow with Kansas moonlight. The moment of breathless anticipation before the curtain rises in a San Francisco theater. A Texas brick road in a thundershower, lit gold by a stray beam of sunshine.
My frequent-flier miles may not go to waste, after all.