Before returning

The seasons have once more slipped around a corner.  Vines burgeon with verdant splendor in the surrounding fields.  Outside the backdoor of the office in which I work,  tender leaves spread across a crumbling wall.  These could become delectable yebra, if I pick and brine them now.  My gardenia bush bears no buds, only yellowish leaves the cause of which no one seems able to diagnose.  But the Japanese maple flourishes, nurtured by the rainy winter.  

In the old trees on Jackson Slough Road, hawks stare down through my windshield as I pass.   It seems that I’ve photographed hundreds of these by now.  At a recent event, someone asked me, How long have you lived here?  I had to stop and count the years.  This is my fifth spring.  I parked my house in November of 2017.  My car first shuddered to a stop in its spot just before Christmas that year.  Not until March did the beauty of this place begin to assert itself.  By May of 2018, my spirit had embraced the Delta splendor.

In a few days, I will take an early morning flight back to the Midwest.  In St. Louis, I will — perhaps — attend a funeral, see my son, have lunch with one cousin and breakfast with another.  I will undoubtedly laugh with my sister; and perhaps shed a few tears, too.   I might stumble upon a brother or two.   Then I will head  to Kansas City, which, despite the passage of time, always seems to welcome me. 

On the west side of Missouri, I will sleep in my friend Brenda’s spare room, just blocks from the house that I owned for 25 years.  There will be coffee dates, and restaurant meals, and perhaps a drink or two in haunts that look vaguely familiar but have new names and new owners.  In Will and Tom’s bookshop, I will touch dusty covers and slide slim volumes of poetry from crowded shelves.  I will shyly, silently, try to find my own book.  I will browse its pages, not letting on to other shoppers that I wrote it.  I will secretly count how many volumes remain unpurchased. I will try not to be disappointed.  On three different days, I will talk to people about my life as a writer, and the life that they could have, if they chose.

After a week playing the prodigal daughter on the banks of the Missouri, I will board a flight and come back to the San Joaquin.  I cannot say, now, here, how I will feel.  But I can confirm one immutable reality with absolute certainty:  I agree with Dorothy.  There’s no place like home.

It’s the ninth day of the one-hundred and and thirteenth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

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