Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Green Acres is the place to be

You might wonder what would entice one to trade the city where you met your husband, where your children were born, where you started a business, where you worshiped, where you bought your first home, where you studied and where you lost your wisdom teeth for a tiny town you can’t pronounce in the middle of the middle of America. Especially knowing you’d spent your entire adult life in major cities, apart from the undergrad stint you did in Lubbock, Texas (although it’s a stretch to rate that as adult life) and considering you don’t know a bean sprout from a dandelion. Why would you think that you’d suddenly find yourself at home in a house where you can’t see your nearest neighbor when, apart from the 8 ft. fence that separates you now, you could see the color of the stripes in your neighbor’s toothpaste through her bathroom window?

It is, in part, a nagging pull to be in a place where you can be aware of your relationship with this great ball flung in the sky, with this ground beneath our feet which, as opposed to the presumption of my six year old, was not formed by God from concrete. She assumed grass was an afterthought. Our lives are loud, fast paced and reeling by all too quickly. In a minute or two, our girls will be gone--lost to malls and cell phones and fashion magazines. We want to rescue them before it is too late and show them a night sky where it’s dark enough to see the stars. We want them to know seasons and what it smells like to dig in the dirt, what it sounds like to rake leaves and how to skip stones in the pond. To work on the land, to work with the land. To know God through knowing His creation. So. Their mother is going to learn to grow tomatoes and squash. She’s going to take her hands off the keyboard and stick them in the mud. We’re going to listen to the wind in the trees absent highway surf.

I remember being in CCD class--the Catholic version of Sunday school except it was held on a weekday evening--and contemplating the only lesson that left an impression through the years, at least that I’m conscious of. The lay person assigned to instruct us this night in the basement of St. Joseph’s was clad in a short sleeved shirt of dishwater hue and pastel tie, his comb-over inviting speculations as to his means of defying gravity as he stood at the chalkboard under fluorescent lights, inspecting us from behind thick, black rimmed glasses. Decades before Sex in the City would become a smash hit on American television, his topic could have been aptly titled, “Sin in the City.” He argued that the person who chose to go off and live as a hermit in the woods would not be subjected to much temptation and therefore could not possibly sin as much as the person who lived in a big city and was thus surrounded by endless ways to sin. How much offense could one give to the deer and antelope? So even if you attained a blameless life in the forest, you really wouldn’t rack up much credit in comparison to the schmuck who was required to navigate urban enticements and entanglements twenty-four seven and come up smelling like Pine Sol.Was it my imagination or did I detect a residue of bitterness indicating that our instructor, living in close proximity to NYC, might be fed up with enduring such trials and would like to strangle our exemplary woodsman?

Now these decades later, on the cusp of abandoning the metropolis for an idyllic little town, I have the feeling I’m cheating. That any goodness my life might seem to exhibit henceforth will be unearned, an empty illusion, because just to be in such a setting is to be unable to be anything but good. I won’t have to swallow homicidal threats at world class obnoxious multi-lane changers. I won’t have to feel like a capitalist pig if I decline to give the guy panhandling in front of Walgreens a few bucks for his “flat tire.” I won’t buy so many lattes.

But what I won’t do anymore is less of a concern to me than what I will do. I feel guilty that we will enjoy such a setting. We’ve worked hard; we could suggest to ourselves we’ve earned it. But many people have worked much harder than we have, under much worse conditions and their options will remain concrete and noise. Why should we be able to do this? Should we do this? What will it mean in the end when we give a reckoning for the lives we lived and where we lived them?

We go in hope of living simpler, quieter, even holier, lives. Wearing the world like a loose shirt and being willing to share it with whoever needs it. Hopefully it’s about more than resisting the bad than pursuing the good, wherever that may be.


Nan said...

following the dreams that tug at our soul will give peace as a gift...enjoy the town that you and nearly no one else can pronounce and keep your girls out of the Columbia mall...been there, done that...strike out and investigate the lake of the ozarks and not necessarily the five to seven mile markers...enjoy the apple festival, the wine, and the pure hearts of the townies.

Karen Miedrich-Luo said...

okay, so I get to be the second person to comment. You're making me ache! But I'll ache more if you don't keep this up.

Deeanne said...

I am so excited for you and so sad for me. Sad because I won't have the priveledge of seeing you every week. Excited because I recognize that longing for clear, clean, pure air and nothing but God's creation all around you.

My husband and I are going to look at retirement property this weekend. We will have to wait 10 years before we can leave the hussle and bussle behind.

So, I am glad you have started this blog and I can live vicariously thorough you as you exchange your keyboard for God's green earth. And perhaps since you will only be a "click" away, it will make the parting easier.

Blessings to you and yours. May God shine His face upon you.

Anthony said...

This was beautiful and so authentic. Thank you for sharing it. But noy buying as many lattes... that's going too far! ;)
I love how you see the world.

shanna said...

I can pronounce 'Rocheport'. Heck, I've even been there--twice.

I found your blog via Mark's site, and what serendipity! My hubby and I both lived in Houston, premarriage (I in a downtown sublet while I worked at The Alley, and he in Humble). Then we up and moved to some no-place kind of town called Bartlesville, in Oklahoma and then drifted, southward, to Tulsa where we now live.

The Rocheport part comes in with Randy's parents; they live at the Lake of the Ozarks (on the quieter Camdenton side), and we've done parts of the Katy Trail with them a couple of times. It's truly a beautiful place. Not exotic, but beautiful, fruitful, alive. You will never get used to how green spring is there. It's almost pornographic. (I write this from the red-dirt river land of eastern Oklahoma, where they dare to call it Green Country. Yeesh!)

There used to be the greatest funky vegetarian-friendly artsy-boho restaurant in a converted church right next to the trail, but I think it closed. Would be nice to know that it didn't die. If you find it alive, do check it out.

No, there's no IKEA, but then again I've never seen a two-foot long cockroach there, either. ;-)

I miss the opportunities of big-city living, but I would never trade them for the peace we now enjoy, even here in this town.

I'll be back to see how the move goes!
Good luck, and God bless.

allison said...

Thanks, buddafly!

How long ago did you leave Houston? Was that you I saw at Brasil?
I'll look for that restaurant--was that near the Rocheport part of the trail?
And my first employer in Houston was from that no-place town;)

shanna said...

Ah yes, there's lots of cross-pollenation between B'ville and Hurston; the awl industry, ya know.

We left Houston a decade ago. (She gasps at the fact!) So I doubt we bumped shoulders anywhere. ;-) I do miss the food--ah! the food! and KQQK. Yes, I listen to tejano, still.

The restaurant was just east of the old train depot. It may be nothing now, or simply something during the main biking season.

And btw, I AM getting some IKEA shipped to me here. Didn't get the Billys, but I could've, so I don't know why they told you that. Perhaps mid-Missouri is too cost prohibitive for shipping. I dunno. The shipping was a bit of a shock, but after checking out my options, I went for the purchase. The IKEA stuff is really what I need for my purposes. Just get online and they'll figure it out.

Now, I off to your updates!

shanna said...


You may not have to fight world-class lane changers, but Missouri is the nation's leader in meth labs per capita.

Ah, well...happy day to you!


Allison said...

Ikea said they'd ship other things there, but not Billys!

And we'll be sure to keep our Nyquil hidden from the neighbors.