Driving into town the other morning I was awestruck by the beauty of the drab, brown, bare and twisted trees covered in sparkling white ice. It still seems funny to me, after living in the northwest for almost four years, to consider these stunted deciduous trees as actual trees and not just shrubs. They just can't quite live up to the magnificent trees of Idaho and Oregon. But that morning I found them breathtaking and found a new appreciation for their empty limbs. Which is good because I might be disowned from my silviculturist father (specializing in oak trees) if I didn't admit that I had a special place in my heart for oaks.
I would never have guessed that I would ever want to move back to Missouri. Boring old Missouri that lacks both majestic mountains and crashing ocean. I always had a mild appreciation of some of its amenities like the turtles, june bugs, lightning bugs and other creatures; its colorful warm springs and the crunchy leaves in fall. But I was destined for bigger things and better places. I was going to be a marine biologist on some rocky and exotic coastline and escape this plainness. After being accepted to two exciting schools on the east coast I was pretty much completely devastated the day that I realized it was much more practical to attend Southwest Missouri State (the soon to be up and coming Missouri State). I may or may not have shed a few tears and my theme song that summer was "In my mind I'm gone to Carolina". But who knew? At good ol' SMS I met my future husband, got some good biology education under my belt and even escaped for one summer to live out my dream traipsing along Cape Cod beaches. One day after our wedding (quite literally) Clay and I packed the u-haul and drove out west without once looking back wistfully (at least not on my part). New country, new adventures, new life. I couldn't wait to get out of our home state. Back to my real home state of Idaho where I was born and raised... at least for the first two years of my life. I already felt a tight bond with the state and country that we were to call our new home. The two years in Moscow were wonderful. The scenery lived up to all my expectations and more. We spent nearly every weekend and holiday exploring, hiking, camping, skiing, river rafting, swimming, attending draft horse shows in Sandpoint and road trips to the Oregon, California and Washington coastlines, national and state parks. My scrapbooks will attest to the good times we had being an adventurous young couple. And Margaret can use them to claim Idaho citizenship and boast about all the places she visited before she was two. She went to both the pacific and atlantic oceans, rode horses, climbed precarious mountain goat trails down to a swimming spot in elk river falls, and flew numerous times to the east coast and Missouri. And that was all before she was born!
Leaving my own true Idaho was a sad day for me. I knew good things were in store for us but even now I still get a touch nostalgic when I think about our time there. The scenery, the church community, the beginning struggles & joys of starting our marriage and a family. In that state I saw myself as a backwoods woman, biologist and rancher extraordinaire. Independent and wild. Moving to the big city of Portland was a big adjustment after that dreamed imagery. Oregon is a beautiful state too and so I was excited to have new places to explore. And we certainly did just that during the year and a half that we lived there. Once again nearly every weekend and holiday was spent hiking and camping and roadtripping around the state. Apartment living in a city with a toddler and energetic puppy will do that to you. But it was still city living. And fortunately for Missouri, and our families, city living didn't sit too well with us. We began to have visions of raising our growing family in the boonies with horses and cows and chickens and dogs and vegetable gardens and woods where the kids could play cowboys & indians and robin hood. And hey, just a yard would be nice to start with. And maybe a basement to store all of our accumulated junk.
So it just so happened that during one of our many visits to Missouri to see family Clay broached the idea of moving back in the near future. And he knew what he was doing. He mentioned it while we were horseback riding on his parent's neighbor's fields where he had proposed to me a couple years ago. Talking about hitting me in a soft spot. I immediately agreed but put in the condition -- maybe in about a year it would be nice. A month or so later, back in the city, Clay started frantically searching for and applying for jobs near Springfield, Missouri. And I surprised myself by being almost as impatient as he was. Moving from Idaho to Missouri might have been a bit harder for me to cope with. But Portland had built in me a desperate need for country life and now with two little children I thought it might not be so bad to be close to family. Even if it was in Missouri. The more I thought about the idea the more things I thought of that I missed about the midwest. The northwest was more breathtaking and stunning and I was for sure going to miss it and all the friends that we made while living there. But it didn't have enough bugs (well, except for ticks and chiggers....I didn't particularly miss those) and reptiles and assorted songbirds and thunderstorms. The biologist in me was kicking in. And there were horses waiting for us in Missouri. Particularly a mustang named Chico who needed a little round pen work.
Since moving back I've discovered a new love for this plain, boring old state. Country life suits me just fine - even though I've hardly had time to jump into helping on the farm since our house has demanded so many hours of painting and fixing up. Soon though, soon. And poor little Baldrick finally has a yard. And even got to run along with us when we went horseback riding in the snow. It was the best day of his entire life. The snow has helped make the brown dreariness of deciduous forests more beautiful. God's being kind to me and helping me adjust slowly to the lack of large awe-inspiring evergreens.
I do miss magpies, California quail, ravens, big trees (as I believe I mentioned), having a large and majestic mountain practically in our backyard, and the crashing, rocky, tide pooled, absolutely lovely Oregon coastline a short drive away. Not to mention our two wonderful church families that helped us feel at home.
But cruising in my silver minivan with the country radio station playing and listening to my two year old moo and neigh incessantly in the backseat (as we pass fields full of cows and horses respectively) feels so right. Soon I will have chickens in our coop that I can see out our bedroom window. An orchard growing in the field next to our vegetable garden. A german shepherd puppy to guard us from ne'er-do-wells (after it grows into something a little more fearsome than a floppy-eared cutie). And best of all two horses in the small pasture next to our house so I can admire them from my living room window. Including a small gray mustang named Chico that still needs some round pen work.
I never thought I'd say it, but it feels good to be back in Missouri. Home sweet home.
Now it's time to start planning those vacations to the ocean.