Take Me Home, Country Roads
I spent the last week on my home ground, or as near to a home ground as I’ve got. Despite more years in Upstate New York than anywhere else, my soul will always be most at home in the foothills of the Appalachians in Middle Virginia.
It’s where I spent every summer of my life from nine years old until I was twenty-two— hiking the Trail, canoeing the rivers, climbing the rocks, exploring the caves. Out in all kinds of weather, far away from the hustle and bustle of my city life during the school year, I found awe, deep silence, and belonging.
I’ve spent the last nine years now taking my kids there in the summer to attend the Quaker summer camps that I went to and then later worked for. I don’t know that I’ve successfully made Quakers out of them, but I have imprinted the land on them, which makes me glad. I think everyone should have land somewhere that sings to them like no other, and Appalachia sings my song.
Lest I wax too poetic, however, I will say that the last week was…damp. The drinkable humidity gave way to rain every damn day, which I found more romantic in my youth. Now it’s just moist (don’t you hate that word?) and sweaty and cloying. I was cooking in the camp kitchen for a week on behalf of my youngest— producing three meals a day for upwards of 100 people in an industrial kitchen with no air conditioning. Only to return to my perpetually damp tent to vaguely sleep at night.
And though at moments I felt enfolded in the wacky, welcoming embrace that camp provides, mostly it felt loud and chaotic and… people-y. I spent a fair amount of the time ruminating on home and family and belonging, which involve a constant push-pull of attraction and repulsion for me. Being part of a family is physical, emotional, and spiritual work in close quarters. It is, nine times out of ten, more imperfect than ideal, what with the real humans involved, and requires more tenderness and patience for myself and others than I was initially gifted on my way into this life.
Family forces me to grow and expand my heart like almost nothing else. I love it and resent it in equal measure.
For all my ambivalence, it was good to be surrounded by my people, for whom deep, earnest discussions about integrity, personal growth, and our obligation to community and society are normal, daily fare. I make sense to them. It’s heartening to feel like the one I am makes sense to people somewhere.
Now I am back in my quiet, cool, clean(ish) house with my plants and my cats. My bed is soft. My writing chair is perfectly placed. The coffee is strong and rich. I make sense to myself here, which is also good. A blessing, actually.
Hopefully, I also make sense to you all, and I suspect you would make deep and meaningful sense to each other. That we are a family of interesting, earnest people doing our best to show up for our lives. So…
Can I invite you to do something with me?
If you are a subscriber, I would like to interview you about your integrity practice.
You don’t have to feel like you’re doing something “important” with your life. You just have to be real and thoughtful and willing to answer this question:
What are the joys and challenges, for you, of living with authenticity and integrity?
You can reply to this email or comment below to let me know you’re interested. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can to arrange a conversation in a format that’s comfortable for you. I can’t wait to hear from you!
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Thanks for reading, dear ones! If you’re already a subscriber, my gratitude currently lays at your feet. If you’re not, I’ve always got more thanks to spread around. You can subscribe below. XO, Asha