The last four months flitted away like a Tennessee dragonfly and left us a little dizzy, but we are finally beginning to settle in.
Our move happened quickly, and we knew on arrival in March that our landing place was only temporary as we searched for a permanent home in a bustling Nashville housing market. Meanwhile, my entire office suite underwent a much-needed facelift that left us working out of boxes, too. The smell of cardboard, the sight of clutter, and the sound of packing tape have been part and parcel to life this summer—not my very first choices for sensory experiences.
But we moved back into our freshly carpeted, lighted, and painted office space recently. And then thanks to Jody and a fantastic realtor, we found the perfect place for us and just last week moved into a condo in Green Hills.
Priceless. Metaphorically speaking (unfortunately).
My wife would say that I prefer my world to be neatly ordered. Well, specifically, she would say—and I may paraphrase a little—that I am the type of nutjob who has to unpack immediately after a trip regardless of the time of night because no one can sleep if my stuff isn’t all in its OCD-inspired place.
So I may have been a bit difficult to live with for the last few months.
But now we are in. Homeowners again. Settled.
The word “settle” is apparently one of the more versatile words in the English language. One might settle a stomach or a lawsuit, one’s affairs or an account. People might settle their differences or a distant colony or on a new plan. A cold might even settle in one’s chest. I know that my current settling is that of finding a location to stay, but today I prefer the intransitive verb version: “to come to rest.”
After an unsettled summer, I like the sound of that very much.
As I rise each morning and retire at night, an unread book sits peacefully on the nightstand, white letters on a bright blue screaming its title in all caps: NECESSARY ENDINGS. My new friend Matt shared it with me, and I only have a general idea of what it has to teach me, but it sure seems appropriate.
This has been quite a year for the ol’ family. Our cross-country move required saying goodbye to a special time in our lives. And then a few weeks ago our oldest daughter received her hard-earned credential to launch a new career teaching deaf and hard-of-hearing children—and that required saying goodbye to a community that loved and supported her, too. And a few days from now, our youngest daughter will hit the road toward San Antonio for a new adventure following her recent graduation from an incredible college experience in Seattle. In reverse chronological order, from oldest to youngest, each of our transitions necessarily involved an ending.
My wife and I smoothly shifted gears into Empty Nest four years ago, but I’m not sure what you call this new place where our children are full-fledged adults, out of college, not really children anymore. It struck me sitting among the masses at the Washington State Convention Center this past weekend that although these two remarkable young women we have tried so hard not to screw up still need us in certain ways, in certain other and very important ways, they do not. They are good, strong, capable human beings. In one specific way—raising self-sufficient humans—our work has ended, and necessarily so.
I confess a twinge of sadness as I sat there in that cavernous convention center and thought of such things, but there were other emotions in this mixed-up heart of mine. There was happiness. Relief. And pride. Oh yes, pride. A deep, full, exploding pride for those two amazing people—our sweet Erica and Hillary.
I hear that all good things must come to an end. It turns out that I’m okay with that after all. It is like that satisfying last page of a long, delicious novel, followed by slowly closing the book and sitting there in that pleasant pause full of reflection and relief—before the anticipation of what comes next.
“Life is all memory except for the one present moment that goes by so quick you can hardly catch it going.” – Tennessee Williams, The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore
To say there is much to do this week is an understatement that borders on absurdity. My farewell sermon yesterday was followed by such a sweet farewell reception—that all four of “us” could be there was very special—but now the rollercoaster whips around an unexpected turn and we will worry about breathing later on. The week ahead is packed floor to ceiling (hey, like that moving metaphor?) as we tie up loose ends and then move to a new stage of life in Tennessee.
A nice and clean reflection has proven impossible. Do I write about the unforgettable people? There are too many. Do I write about stunning California? I wouldn’t know where to start. Do I write about law school or Pepperdine or Malibu or the Labor Exchange or University Church or running or…
I give up.
Maybe I will just say that our time here has transformed our lives in every conceivable way. Physically. Intellectually. Professionally. Emotionally. Spiritually. You name it.
And we are thankful.
I have been told repeatedly that I will miss the views here. With all due respect, I don’t believe it. Those views have been permanently imprinted on my memory and will always be nearby—and I’m not simply referring to the natural scenery. Edgar Allan Poe said, “To observe attentively is to remember distinctly.” If nothing else I was sure to pay attention, so I’m not worried.
I have shared my favorite Wendell Berry Sabbath poem before, but it is most appropriate today:
We travelers, walking to the sun, can’t see
Ahead, but looking back the very light
That blinded us shows us the way we came,
Along which blessings now appear, risen
As if from sightlessness to sight, and we,
By blessing brightly lit, keep going toward
The blessed light that yet to us is dark.
So here we go on these crazy final few days. I will blog from the road next week—Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise. The South, here we come.
Posted in Original Essays
Tagged blessings, california, edgar allan poe, labor exchange, malibu, memories, moving, pepperdine, sabbath, tennessee, tennessee williams, the south, university church of christ, wendell berry
I was just a toddler when David Bowie released “Changes,” reportedly a throw-away ditty that with time became one of his best-known songs. “Changes” seems a fitting title track for the world today, but as I attempt to accomplish the trifecta of moving houses, jobs, and offices in the next week or so, I kind of have it stuck in the old noggin for personal reasons.
There are benefits to moving, of course. Like mental and physical exhaustion. The aroma of cardboard. An urge to google “hoarder assessment quiz.” Noble attempts at impossible to-do lists. Locating unused muscle groups. Discovering spiders in little-trafficked areas of the house. Mental and physical exhaustion. Did I mention that one already? Forgetfulness.
But don’t forget the magical feeling of a fresh start that comes along for the ride, too. And the opportunity to throw away junk and live more simply. And the glorious break from the old routine to attempt to create a better routine. And the sudden appearance of the word “possibilities” in daily conversations. Changes can be downright invigorating, and I for one am excited by the prospect in spite of the unavoidable challenges.
“I hate moving” seems to be the natural and popular thing to say. But I sure love getting somewhere, and it stands to reason that it is hard to get somewhere if you are immovable.