Considering the Move

Zach and I have lived in Madison for four and a half years now, and I am beginning to realize this season of our life is waning. I always knew we wouldn’t be here for all that long, but now that we only have one or two more years before we move, my perspective is shifting.

It’s fun for us to consider where we might end up, the exotic or mundane locations that could be our next home. But more than that, I think about the things I know I’m going to miss about Madison.

I’m going to miss our little apartment. I think it’s probably almost the fewest square feet a two-bedroom apartment can be, and it can feel constraining at times, but more often it feels cozy. I love having a space that forces me to keep my life simple, to keep the superfluous objects and excessive purchases to a minimum. I love how short the walk is from the bedroom to the bathroom, the kitchen to the living room, the front door to the far corner of Ramona’s room. Everything is close. Everything is always within reach.

I love the Willy Street Co-op, but I won’t miss it. I wish I had enough money to shop there, but as it is, it’s just torturing me.

I’m going to miss our garden. If we can’t find a place near a community garden when we move, it’s going to be very sad.

I’m going to miss being so close to my parents. My mom comes up many weeks to visit with me and Ramona for a day, and it’s easy for us to head down to their place for a Sunday afternoon.

I’m not going to miss the restaurants. I still miss the restaurants from St. Paul–especially Good Earth, Black Sea, Bascali’s Brick Oven, Mirror of Korea, Izzy’s Ice Cream (okay, Chocolate Shoppe here in Madison is good, too), Java Train, Pop! (gone now, so sad)…….of course, we could end up in some small college town that only has three pizza places and a McDonald’s, and then I might miss the Madison restaurants.

I’m going to miss the bike paths, especially the lakeshore path.

I’m going to miss the free 80 bus.

And if we move out of the Midwest, I know I’m going to miss the weather. I love winter, and also spring and fall and summer. I love having the shift in temperature, colors, and activities. I love layering and snuggling when it’s cold, and I love biking and playing outside with Ramona when it’s hot.

But probably whatever it is that I will really miss is a mystery to me now, and it’s probably something I completely take for granted.

Wandering through Summer and My Soul

This summer has been cold. And already it is August. I’m sad to see the ragweed in bloom, to think of a waning harvest at the garden, the planting of fall beets and cauliflower. Even though summer is my least favorite season, I cherish the temporary cessation of other responsibilities. But, as always, summer passes with as much bustle as any other time of year, with trips and projects that have been put off until this “less busy” season.

Summer also usually brings a slowing down of my productivity in reading and writing, in mining beauty from within myself. Instead, it’s a time of gathering from the outside: camping, swimming, traveling, experiencing. This summer, however, I feel that I’ve also been able to continue to look inward, even as I experience more of the outward.

I have started reading The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd and, as always, I have found in her work such a resonance with my own thoughts, discoveries, and struggles. She writes:

Somewhere along the course of a woman’s life, usually when she has lived just long enough to see through some of the cherished notions of femininity that culture holds out to her, when she finally lets herself feel the limits and injustices of the female life and admits how her own faith tradition has contributed to that, when she at last stumbles in the dark hole made by the absence of a Divine Feminine presence, then…this woman will become pregnant with herself, with the symbolic female-child who will, if given the chance, grow up to reinvent the woman’s life.

I find Kidd’s birth imagery a little distracting and ironic because it was the process of giving birth and the months of breastfeeding which followed that woke me up to the “limits and injustices of the female life.” I became ripe for change in the pain, the loneliness, the dark of a motherhood void of the Feminine Divine. I am ready for the journey Kidd describes. I have, in fact, been on this journey now for nearly two years—discovering God as Mother, discovering feminine strength—though this is the first time I’ve recognized the connection between what I’ve experienced and the drive I feel to become a stronger, more true, more uninhibited version of myself as a woman. 

And I am happy to experience the winding journey of summer alongside the winding journey within myself, leading me onward towards discovering and redefining myself as the days grow shorter and the leaves begin to dream of the first blush of autumn.

Perennial Growth

Late summer. Tomatoes ripening in the garden as we pick the last peas of the season; a few tired maples beginning to turn toward autumn; cicadas, katydids, crickets singing deep into our dreams. We begin to look forward, into the change, into school and ripe apples and pumpkin pie.

Soon, my daughter turns one. I remember these final days of waiting last year, how I was ripe like the season, ignorant of all the pain and brokenness I would walk through this year. Because in many ways for me—and though I know this is not something I “should” say, not something acceptable in a culture that often views birth as a wonderful, transcendent experience—Ramona’s birthday was the worst day of my life, and though this year has been filled with much joy, it has also taken this whole year, will take much longer still, to fully heal from the terror of that day. Ann Voskamp and Sue Monk Kidd and Henri Nouwen and Frederick Buechner have guided, are guiding this journey into love—love for Ramona (how mysterious and wonderful the love of a mother for a child), love for my own broken self, love for the God who guides me into and through this painful journey.

This year, I am full of thankfulness. I am filled with eucharisteo. I am broken, but I am blessed.

Packing

Today, we are packing for a wedding in Chicago and a trip to Ohio to follow. There is that particular bustle about the apartment that only accompanies packing, as we eat what we can of the veggies in the fridge, make a list of all the items we need to bring for Ramona (even longer than our last trip now that she’s eating solids), fold clothes into bags, look up directions.

Zach and Ramona are at the garden watering, so I take a moment to pause before the plunge. To take in the buzz of planning for happy events, for seeing loved ones, for car-ride fussy baby and audiobooks.

These are the mundane moments that, years from now, Zach and I will look back on—remember when?—and be so thankful to have shared with our baby, who already grows too quickly.

Garden

Today I walked to the garden, pushing little Ramona in her stroller. The lettuce and onions and beets are thriving. We hold our breath over the turnips and kohlrabi while the leeks I planted indoors slowly bend and wither.

We are having mixed success in growth. As my family of three grows toward the light, for a moment we blossom as we tend our woody and withered hearts. In the deep blue evening, final birdcalls hang in the air with the winding song of a neighbor’s violin practice. The breeze is sweet and chill after late spring rain. I whisper for Jane Kenyon’s “patient gardener/of the dry and weedy garden” to come, always and again, to the root of this family and breathe warmth and water upon us.

Re-beginnings

I own a tomato plant which currently bears two green and one green-orange tomatoes. This plant has traveled from Ohio to Minnesota, and now to Wisconsin. And now it has found its fragile, tipsy body leaned against the rail outside our second-floor apartment.

I did not expect the tomato plant to survive the move to Madison, yet it does not seem much weakened by the rough drive. While I myself feel much more weakened than expected. I have no friends here, save for my husband, and I have no job. Change and newness have brought, as usual, a more full awareness of my dependencies and flaws.
Yet, just a few moments ago, I scheduled a job interview for next week: even now, in my doubt, I see the hope I am granted day by day.