Home is more than just a place

I could see moving as a burden or a door opening on new vistas.

Kevin Eisenhut/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/MCT/Newscom
Backyard birds: A nuthatch, left, and a wood¬pecker feed outside a home in Fox Point, Wis.

After a lifetime love affair with my birthplace, it hasn't been easy to leave it and move on. But circumstance sometimes offers us change, willy-nilly, will we/won't we. And so it happened here. I could choose to see this change that suddenly loomed large on my horizon, this uprooting from my comfortably settled complacency, as an oppressive burden or as a door opening on new vistas – new people, new places, new experiences.

I cut my teeth on my grandmother's endless store of maxims: "What can't be cured, must be endured." "No use crying over spilt milk." And the unforgettably garbled line from Jane Ace, of early radio days, "You've got to take the bitter with the batter!" So I naturally chose the opening door.

Saying goodbye to the land on which I could walk confidently even in darkness and to all the "critters" with whom I shared it was painful. There are memories in every turn of the path, in every ancient tree still standing.

In this pine grove my father called the crows, imitating them so well that they flew down crying, "What? What?" In this winter field, he taught me to read the tracks of wild things passing through, to look for the hunting hawk, spiraling so high it was only a black dot against the clouds.

Who now would feed my wintering-over robins? Who would be watchful to leave the sumac berries glowing through the snow and the wild-rose hips uncut for hungry deer, when forage is scarce? I didn't expect that my tenants – the woodchuck, rabbits and all the others – would miss me. I knew that I would miss them.

But life is more than sitting on the deck watching wildlife parade by. First, it's family and being where they are. Alternately apprehensive and hopeful, my husband and I weighed the pros and cons of what we'd lose and what we'd gain and made our momentous decision.

We, who had never planned to move again, especially not in our elder years, left all behind and journeyed onward, accompanied by dire predictions of disaster from some and cheerleading encouragement from others.

Everybody was right! A few disasters along the way and many heartening events marked the trek to our new beginning. I discovered again how helpful and how kindhearted people are. And how readily friendship is offered by newfound neighbors – a dozen eggs and a bundle of rhubarb from the neighbor to the left and an offer of all the blueberries we can pick in July and August from the neighbor to the right.

Having come to our new home in the depths of winter, we found spring and summer unwrapping surprises every day. I'd mourned the loss of my old flower garden, but spring brought me beautiful clumps of bleeding heart at my doorstep. Soon lilacs burst into glorious clouds of white and purple. Now daylilies are splashes of brilliant orange on a green canvas. I left behind myriad bright birds, but a feeder filled with seed and hung from the deck reveals a wealth of goldfinches, cardinals, and chirping sparrows.

Today, I can truly say that I feel at home again. I've learned that home is more than just a certain place. It's a state of mind that we carry with us wherever we go.

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