Chicago was spring, Philadelphia autumn.

I am sitting in a guest room that was once my room at my parents’ home. I’m typing away with my feet propped up on a box and my computer on top of an antique vanity that belonged to my great-grandmother. The years have cycled back, the way they do, to the first season. The room is mine again.

The red Georgia clay and the bare winter limbs on the oaks outside are part of the season that birthed me 32 years ago. I joke with my parents that I am the poster-child for the boomerang generation. Three cross-continent moves, a graduate degree, and a couple “adult” jobs under my belt, but here I am typing away at a vanity where I can see my name that I etched into the wood as a kid.

On my first cross-country move I landed just north of Chicago, a ten-minute walk from the shore of Lake Michigan. It was a land of straight and flat roads, crossing at hard-right angles until you got to the shore where sand and rocks met vast water. I had a spot near the lake—a tree arched over the edge of the water and every season I marveled at the changes there. I once waded waist-high in snow drifts to get close to the icy lake. I watched in awe as the weather changed from week to week. For the first time in my life I knew what it was like to ache for the coming of spring, to see the green shoots of grass start growing as the slushy, dirty snow finally melted.

In Chicago, the beauty of the Lake and the beauty of the architecture fed my soul in tandem. Chicago introduced me to myself in a way that’s only possible when you flourish somewhere brand new. As a suburban girl, I barely knew my neighbors, but here I passed them on the sidewalk regularly as we all walked to the train or the coffee shop or church.

When spring came, we all went outside. The two elementary school children across the street played football with their dad in the front yard, Henry the beagle and his caretaker made frequent trips around the block; I chatted with the next door neighbor about plants as I edged my lawn right next to her driveway. There was an annual block party and an Easter-egg hunt. My introverted self means I can’t tell you the names of many of these people, but I was drawn to the community and togetherness–these seeds of community burrowed into my heart.

And when the season in Chicago was done, I landed in the hills and valleys of Eastern Pennsylvania to attend seminary. Here, I would check the weather for rain and plan my life accordingly. When it rained the basement flooded and blocked my path to the washing machine for a day. The roads flooded in such a way that my old car protested and sputtered over every puddle.

But on pretty days I’d sometimes find myself on a hill in the beautiful Valley Forge National Park, textbook and pen in hand as I did my reading for my seminary coursework. During those years the theology I studied and learned began to stitch together the pieces of my life. I was desperate to know if I was changing, or just growing. Had my years as an educator and a non-profit worker,  my experiences as a single woman and a fat woman, my understanding of God learned in a suburban Southern church and an urban Midwestern church  finally all come together to produce who I was?

That last year in Pennsylvania was a bountiful harvest. I had seen the beauty of community while watching my Chicago neighborhood, I got to live it in Pennsylvania where every Sunday night neighbors gathered together for dinner. Relationships were deep and meaningful. Ideas and hopes and dreams were always close at hand. After a lifetime of not knowing what I was passionate about, I finally had answers (to some things!). There were places where I could voice a firm “yes” or “no.”

Those passions and ideas unexpectedly led me back to Georgia, a move not for work or grad school, but a choice to be near family. There is a lot that is uncertain for me about life back in Georgia. While I found a worthwhile reason to move, one that was born out of the community I experienced with people who had been strangers,  my current situation lacks the structure to define my day’s activities. There is a freedom to find what will shape my life here. It is planting season: time to sow the seeds I reaped from a Pennsylvania harvest, first nourished in a Chicago spring.

The dark wood of this old vanity and the even-older red clay outside remind me that there are roots already here. This very specific plot has nurtured my beginnings before. A harvest will come again.  Now, counting on the hope of spring and the bounty of autumn, I sow.

Originally published as a guest post over at You are Here Stories

 

 

2 Comments on “Chicago was spring, Philadelphia autumn.

  1. I left a comment on the other site but not sure if it went through…. the formatting was weird on my phone.

    This was fantastic. You tell a good tale, friend, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and learning more about you too.

    Like

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