"Home is the ground we measure with our own two feet. And home is the place that measures us."
Christie Purifoy, Roots and Sky
H O M E .
This year I listened to the sounds of home when I was there. In the early morning I heard the cardinal's song. At least around Magnolia his is the first sweet whistle before sunrise.
The bluejay is the bully of the neighborhood, squawking his way around the pasture, even mocking a hawk posted on the fence, serene and sentinel. I could see he was unruffled as he spread his wide wings over the pines.
On our morning walks, we heard the grass rustle under rabbit's feet and deer hooves, a train whistle swelled in the distance, sad and storied. I wonder where was it headed? I wonder the same about myself sometimes.
I am here in Texas country. I call this wide place home because I have history and kin and pockets of remembering here. It is a place of favorite foods and a way of talking that is familiar to my heart.
Texas is my walk the line place. I remember walking down the aisle toward Jesus when I was twelve and toward Mike just days before my twenty fourth birthday. My first child was born in Texas country. A lot of my firsts happened here and that counts for something.
This trip the Wonders were in full bloom; Crosby took his first no-holding-on steps and Eliza got serious about crawling with a wide arm swing.
Yet I also call Oregon home. I have lived among the evergreens more years of my life. Three of my children were born in Oregon and I live there now shaded by the firs. If time is a scale, length of years make it heavy in the balance.
The happiest sound this trip home was the laughter among the cousins around the pool, the basketball hoop or the table where we dip our chips into handmade pico de gallo, a Pops classic. By day two, he is making us a third batch.
The cutting board is full of rounded cups of chopped onion, tomatoes from his garden, fresh jalapeños and lime juice from Persian limes squeezed in circles.
"There's room for one more jalapeño", I tell him.
I pluck and gently chop the cilantro until I have two cups. Daddy reminds me it bruises easily. My fingers smell like citrus and garden dirt. The pico will be better when the smells and flavors have had time to mingle and marinate.
We all sit on the sheltering front porch in the late afternoon watching the turtles bask on logs fallen into the pond. Broken spyglasses dangle from one of the rocking chairs. I have to admit I often thought my Mama exaggerated their shell size when she claimed they were "the size of dinner plates". But when I finally sit quiet and still, I can see through the binoculars Gee calls spyglasses that she has spoken true.
The turtles seem to be whiling away the afternoon in a lazy sleep, but I discover they are secretly measuring me. Before I can get halfway to the pond from the porch, they slip into the dark water. I tried all afternoon moving slow and steady, and you are not sneaking up on them for a closer look.
There is just something about home, isn't there? That something might be power or love or rebellion, but whatever it is, it holds a familiar ring. You can be right there and not quite bring it into focus. You might be resisting home or embracing it or more likely Texas two-stepping between the two.
At night I sit at the dining room table with my sister and pour over her hill country dream, the one with goats, a pond and a windmill. I am dreaming right alongside her looking out of a wrap-around porch with an old red swing hanging on the diagonal. There are stars and crosses cut into the eaves and a screen door slams in the humid crossbreeze. I can see my first visit on the far rolling horizon.
"Home is the place that names us and the place we, in turn, name. It feeds us, body and soul, and if we are living well, we feed it too."
Christie Purifoy, Roots and Sky
When we close the gate between the crepe myrtles, I hear the cadence of an old familiar song along with the crickets, one where I sway to the music and know every word. And days later I find myself humming along. It might be Johnny Cash.
I think there are choruses we sing inside our hearts that come from home. The words may need to be re-worked, unlearned even, but they tell us something about ourselves.
I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
I keep my eyes wide open all the time
I keep the ends out for the tie that binds
Because you're mine, I walk the line.
I can't help but wonder what choruses my children hear from our home? I ponder the verses they will write in to make the song their own. I pray for a heart big enough to let them.
When I go home, I can see myself in her slanting light. I can hear the song that made me and the chords I have broken to be my own kind of girl.
I find home is a measuring cup and mine has not come up empty.
*Written in parts over cups of coffee at Houndstooth and Thunderbird Coffee in Austin, Texas.