Satellite map stalking can only prepare you so much.
I saw Midland in real life, for the very first time, the night before we closed on our house here. We had just finished the 2-day-long trek from North Dakota with 3 kids, 2 dogs,1 cat and the biggest Uhaul they make.
We had engine troubles along the way and ended up stuck at a dealership in Amarillo for nearly half a day. When we finally pulled into town, it was too dark to see much of the place we would now call home. I fell asleep that night to the sounds of anxiety and optimism playing tennis in my head.
When I woke up and peeked out our 3rd-story hotel window, West Texas looked about the same with the lights on. Growing up between two Utah mountain ranges had spoiled me- I would have to look a little harder than I expected to find the beauty here.
Our new house boasted a single palm tree in the front yard, something that had never grown in the cooler climates. She was so tall that she hid the street lamp. At night, her swaying leaves glistened like a background dancer, not quite in the spotlight, but content to be part of the show.
She would anchor me in the coming months. She’d let me borrow her roots while I put down my own. While navigating the emotional roller coaster of creating a new life, I would often remind myself, “at least I have the palm tree.”
Running around barefoot in the grass, rolling down hills to see who would reach the bottom first was normal for us. Our first few weeks here were a quick and painful lesson that shoes were a must and that if you spotted green grass, it was fake. The thorns stuck to our shoes and pants, they planted themselves in our dog’s paws and in popped stroller tires. They twisted themselves into the weave of shirts and made their way into washcloths that scratched in the shower. They even dethroned legos as the-worst-thing-to-step-on-in-the-middle-of-the-night.
I hated their obnoxious presence in this dry place,
but at least I had the palm tree.
The armpit water
I found a glass, anxious for refreshment after unpacking the kitchen. This new house had a funny little side-spout just for drinking water. As I filled my cup, my eyes wandered through the window glass to our new backyard. A few yellow roses were still blooming even though it was late November. As soon as the water washed over my tongue I questioned swallowing it. I’d never licked an armpit before, but surely this is what it would taste like. It was the worst water I had ever put in my mouth! Worse than the fishy water from my grandparents house, worse than accidentally swallowing soapy bath water, worse than toddler-backwash-surprise. I prayed a new filter would make the difference and hated that something so important was tainted.
But at least I had the palm tree.
And the yellow roses.
The BFFs- wind, dirt and allergies
A pair of mourning doves made their nest in a scrappy evergreen outside my office window. If I stood on my stool, my face was only 24 inches from their two, rarely visible, muted grey eggs. The only thing between us was the glass and the tension of wordlessly watching each other.
I would notice the branches rustling first, then the the trunk, only 3 inches wide at the base, start to sway. The doves feathers ruffled like a football stadium doing the wave, yet it stayed steady, tethered somehow by it’s sacred responsibility. Soon the whipping of dirt, dried out foliage and bits of garbage would swirl in the air. We kept the kids inside even though we knew it couldn’t protect them from the stuffed up noses, the headaches, the sneezing, the coughing, the dry eyes and the fogginess that the wind escorted into town and then quietly dropped on our window sills with a layer of earthy dust.
I hated that the air made us sick and that spring time had to hurt.
But at least I had the palm tree, the yellow roses, and the doves.
They all seemed to thrive here, maybe I could too.
Opening my eyes
I would remind myself each day that “you find what you look for”. But, when you are mourning the life, the people and the version of yourself you left behind, you don’t always want to look for the joy. As if something you can’t put your finger on is afraid that being happy somewhere new might blot out the happiness you once had, and you don’t want to lose the potency of your memories. So you ignore the beauty and you focus on what you hate, because it makes being sad make sense.
I grieved for a while, but time was my friend and wouldn’t let me stay there.
Eventually I started to see the little things that turn a town from a map to a home–
the plethora of addicting Mexican food, the abundance of churches offering so many brands of hope, the food-filled heaven that is HEB, the snow-free winters that don’t require a shovel and the summers that make you sweat like you mean it.
And finally, I found the view that had been hidden all along, the one you have to choose to see or it evades you, the one that never gets old and always takes your breath away.
The one you only see in people’s eyes.
I saw mountains of shared hopes.
I saw lakes of shared pain.
I saw rushing rivers of passion and purpose and persistence weaving their rushing waters through the hearts of this community.
I finally understood in a way that felt like remembering.
I finally knew that the palm tree, the yellow roses, the mourning doves and the landscape are not what makes a place beautiful,
the people do.
Maybe I was home afterall.