“In Kentucky [or Tennessee, my addition] you could never see too far, since there were always mountains blocking the other side of your view, and it left you the chance to think something good might be just over the next hill. But out there on the plain it was all laid out right in front of you, and no mater how far you looked it didn’t get any better. Oklahoma made me feel there was nothing left to hope for.”–Missy (Taylor Greer) in Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees
We are in Oklahoma, though I don’t view it as dimly as Kingsolver’s Missy. I left here when I was 17 and twenty years later I’m returning a changed person for all the people I’ve met and ways God has changed me through them, for all the events in my life that have humbled me time and again, for all the ways I have come to appreciate the sacred not only in sacred places but in and around the secular, for as Madeline L’Engle says in Walking on Water“There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred.”
I’m married to the person who has changed me more than anyone else, and three children who have melted my heart and sometimes test the limits of what mercy I have. It’s been twenty years since I’ve lived in Oklahoma, but these four have never lived in Oklahoma. Till yesterday, Jacob had never seen a pond full of angus cows trying to keep cool in 96 degree heat. Since packing up and leaving from Nashville Friday and arriving Sunday, we’ve been hanging out with family and acting like those cows, keeping cool in the water.
Early mornings this week we’ve been picking blackberries and blueberries on farms nearby, cleaning out Grandma D’s gutters, spying what is in the garden now and tasting the fruits of already harvested gardens. We sat on Grandma’s porch yesterday teaching the children to spit watermelon seeds while talking about the turtles that had been eating the strawberries.
I start at Garnett July 5. Till then, I’m trying to recover the gusto that moving tends to yank out of a soul. There is, contrary to popular believe in Kingsolver’s novel, a horizon and hope in Oklahoma, and we’re walking toward it now, ever believing that joy and God’s life is right in front of us and beyond.