In Hotsprings, North Carolina, Ryan and I sang karaoke together. It was a random thing that we did, and not something we have ever done before. We chose to sing a song called “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. The first time I had ever heard this song was when we were in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, at a Western BBQ and dance. We were celebrating our 13th wedding anniversary. I have loved the song since then, and every time I hear it I think of Ryan.
We have never had roots in a place that we call home. Our roots are planted and entangled in one another, in the place where we are when we are with eachother and our children. Alabama or Arkansas, no matter how much we love our ma or pa, there is something different about how we love one another. We have never had a physical place that we look back on, since being married, that we feel was home.
As I am writing this, I am sitting on my warm comfy king sized bed. I slept in Ryan’s arms last night without the hinderance of sleeping bags to separate us. I love that place. In a few moments, I will take a hot shower without the use of crocs, and use a towel that has not touched a strangers body. I will have to choose what I will wear (though because all of our clothes are packed away, it will be whatever is on the top of the box). Then I will make breakfast in our fully stocked kitchen, with a full sized oven, pulling things from a fridge and utilizing a myriad of spices. After we have all eaten, we will slip our dishes into the dishwasher, instead of heading off to find water at a nearby stream and getting our single cup and spoon as clean as we can. I thought that I missed all of these things, but aside from being able to sleep next to Ryan, I dont. In fact, this weekend has been harder than I could have imagined. I am grateful, yet unsettled. I feel more a stranger here, than I do out there. I cant wait to be on the trail again tomorrow.
Showers, laundry, cooking, shopping… all of those things are easier for certain when we are home, but the emotional and mental freedom that we have experienced on the trail makes the challenge of those things so worth it.
All to often, we assign the word home to a building. We work hard to have this home. We work to fill the home with beautiful and pleasing things. We dedicate hours to the upkeep of the physical building. Often there is a never ending “to do” list of projects that need to be done to assure the functionality of the building. And these homes become a litmus test for the success or failures of a family. The days of knowing our neighbors and relying on them, for the majority, are past. We drive cars to places where we can gather with people that are like us and that we choose to like. None of these things are wrong. But what we have experienced over the past couple of months is something so completely different, and in that difference I feel “home”.
What we are doing is not “normal”, but what is happening within each of us individually, and in all of us corporately is so amazing that I don’t know I ever want to live “normal” again. We have time for eachother. There are no walls or doors to divide us. We depend on eachother daily. We are united in the mission. There are times when the trail is hard, but it is never harder than the things our family has gone through in the past. Some of those difficulties can be attributed to the challenges faced from our time served as a military family, but others are because we made the choice to be bound to the typical American lifestyle. In our attempt to have, we lost. On the trail, we are stripped of the comforts of things, but we have found and will continue to find comfort and security in eachother.
Out there, we are known as “the family”. We are known by who we are, not what we have, not what we do… simply who we are. “The last one to finish wins” is a common reality check on the days where we might feel we aren’t making the forward progress that we wish we were. We are surrounded by a community of people where everyone wants to see eachother find what they are looking for. There is no judgement for those who dont finish (for the most part), instead of quitting, they left the trail becasue they had found what they were looking for. We circle around eachother to make sure that no one is quitting on a bad day, but if they are leaving the trail, they are doing so at peace.
I fear that I will finish the miles, but not necessarily be ready to leave the trail. Having experienced the freedom that outdoor living provides, I am not sure that I am ready to bind myself to a building… and the common definition of home.
Maybe one day, this restless being will leave the trail ready to settle, but not yet. None of us are there yet. The place where awe at the beauty of creation and the continuous emerging of life within us and around us daily draws us to continue on. This is the season we are in… And I love it, even on the hard days.