Because, the Heartland
We traveled last weekend over fields and through cities and towns and around the Lakes and across pages and maps of the heart to visit old friends. These are the kinds of friends who know us, our ugly and good and they share our history, they are part of our story.
Along the way I am watching the sun set over the Midwest, shadows slanting along hills, trees, golden fields, subdivisions. And I think again how beautiful is this land I have always known, the Heartland, what good people it has grown.
We drive right into twilight, my favorite time of day and pull over to dress the kids in their pajamas and they drift to sleep as the stars are turning on, a long black stretch and nothing but stars I lean my head out the window. And then there is the glow on the horizon and soon we are in Chicago, and I lean out again and breathe the sorrow, the dreams, the motion and confusion and longing of time and humanity.
And we are talking. Talking about where we have been and where are we going, and there is this usual conversation, the one we keep coming back to- Home. I think a lot about home, home matters; it is my work and my heart, the backdrop of family and childhood, the spine of memory.
For years we have been in transition- all of the years of our marriage, and five houses, and I am feeling the pull to root, to find our place and make a forever home. I breathe it often, Where is home, Lord? and I hear Him say, You are a traveler here, love, this world is not your home. And I know this is true.
Back in Ohio a school morning we are in an all-out race to make it out the door on time. There is a lost backpack and shoes that don't fit and tears and bickering and a potty accident just as we were already late and I am keeping it together, just barely, my voice is calm though my pulse is racing and somehow we make it.
We drop Annie off at school with kisses and then on to our class for homeschool. As we are driving I notice: first, a car beside us the passenger appears to be shouting, screaming at the driver, clearly distraught and then, in the rearview mirror I notice the woman in the SUV behind us is sobbing, hysterically, and she too is shouting, whether it is aloud to herself or on a phone I can't see. We are stopped for minutes at a light and she is clearly coming undone, I fear for her and pray for her as our cars part on the interstate. Later on this same day, in the middle of traffic, a man has stopped his car and gotten out only to shout across the lanes, fists raised, I have no idea who he is shouting at but he gets back in his car and drives away.
And a poor woman was shot that day at the U.S. Capitol, and her daughter was with her . . . and a man who shot an officer with his three kids in the car . . . and I learned we have 90 guns in this country for every 100 people, and I wonder- are we slipping? Is our collective sanity breaking down? Why? For lack of social services or lack of medicine or is it for lack of home?
Home, is the word that comes to mind when I hear these stories, when I watch the news and see the horror or drive past the broken. Oh Darling, where is your home?
And the question I realize is not where is your home, but who? Who is your home? Who are your people? Where will you go when your nerves are shattered and life strung out, when all you can do is rage? Can you find yourself in a warm kitchen somewhere, within the safety of people who know your story, all of it's yokes and confusion, who see your lovely along with your dark? Who will listen and who will speak truth to you?
And I thought all day about our friends, these friends who map our heart. I thought of other friends near and far, the people we have grown up alongside and traveled with for a season or for years, with whom we have wept and argued and laughed; all of our roads trace back to them.
Because this is our home, these people, this history. The Heartland. The world is not our home, not a location on a map or a white picket fence but the journey, the terrifying, beautiful journey, and the tribe we travel with. We are travelers here, but we are not lost.
The ark is wherever people come together because this is a stormy world where nothing stays put for long among the crazy waves and where at the end of every voyage there is a burial at sea. The ark is where, just because it is such a world, we really need each other and know very well that we do. . . . The ark, in other words, is where we have each other and where we have hope.-Frederick Buechner