We left Austin, Texas, left our dear daughter and new son-in-law, left the fun and excitement of a wedding week, and traveled North. The drive home is always longer–anticipation that speeds time on the trip there is replaced by thoughts and reflections of everything that happened, and time drags to a crawl. Are we still in Texas?!
We drove home through Dallas, Denison, and Durant, veering east in Oklahoma, passing oak-covered hills and the seemingly endless waters of Eufaula Lake, a reservoir on the Canadian River.
As I stared out the window, I noticed an undulating black column in the cloud-filled sky. Thousands of blackbirds moved in a synchronized dance in their annual fall flocking behavior.
We spent the night in Fort Smith, Arkansas and got up ridiculously early to start our trek back to South Dakota. Darkness obscured the Ozark Mountains, and I was sorry to miss their beauty. Mist rose with the sun as we traveled through Missouri.
Miles and states blurred by as I dozed and woke. Harvest time–two words that encompass so many things to rural people–was coming to an end.
Finally I saw the bare giants of cottonwood trees that cluster together in the prairie pastures of South Dakota.
And we were back to the Andersen homestead…like we had never left. The geese still swam in the slough, grazed in the pastures, and circled in the foggy air.
The cattle still grazed quietly in the neighboring pasture.
It was the end of our trip–sort of–as we spent a few days with my family before heading back to Minnesota. I felt like I had much to process–a married child, a new family member, an ailing father, distance between me and some of my children–both physically and emotionally, and the let-down after months of planning and the wonderful excitement of the wedding week. I longed to get home to my own bed, routine, and familiar surroundings where the processing would be easier.
The end (sort of) in marriages with children is marked when they leave home. College life eases the transformation when you see them for most holidays, summer transitions, etc., but there comes a time when they are gone, when someone else may help them move, share holidays with them, and listen to their problems. This ending of the ‘family’ marriage is often a difficult period when expectations change, and time and energy morphs into something different from what it was. At the beginning of a marriage, we learn how to be you, me, and us–at this end, we learn the same thing in a much different way. We re-learn us as a couple with no kids, and we re-discover you and me after twenty or thirty years of life has imprinted itself on our bodies and souls. It is not a journey for the faint of heart. Some do not make this transition with marriage intact, some feel like they have gained their freedom, and some move easily to the next stage with near-by children and grandchildren who re-ignite the wonderful parenting gifts without the staggering responsibilities. Whichever way it works, there is one thing that has been hiding behind the busy life that starts to edge its way into our consciousness. We see parents, grandparents, and even friends un-couple because of death or divorce who then live a single life for years or decades. We see and feel that even though we are one of the flock or one of a couple–and our dance has been in synchrony for a very long time–we have to start embracing our one-ness.
So the New Beginning can be cloaked in many different colors of which we have the freedom to choose! We need the slow time of reflection to move us gracefully into the next stage of life, and as we begin to re-discover our one-ness, we return to the homestead, like we had never left.