Unless you’re driving to Wilmington or Charleston, there is no Interstate that takes you directly to the coast of North or South Carolina. Instead, you have to choose a back roads route. This drive to the beach is always one I enjoy because the smaller towns offer vignettes of life you can watch as you drive by. Be careful not to speed, though. The cops love to catch beach traffic speeding through the 35 mph zones.
We passed this house on our way, those yellow fields are straight out of Oz, as if the poppies and the yellow brick road had a baby. I had to take a picture because of course.
While we were at the coast during our short spring break, I thought a lot about the place in life where were at that time. It’s what we wanted and in many ways what we hoped it would be, but in my eagerness to leave the parts of our lives that were hard, I forgot to grieve leaving the parts that were good.
One of my own personal struggles is a temptation to always look ahead to the next thing, idealizing the other-ness of what is not rather than embracing the essence of what is. That’s not always bad, but it is a delicate kind of learned art to be able to look ahead while also celebrating now, to imagine what could be without discounting what is.
As I’ve been reading in the gospels lately, I’m reminded of how personal, present, and local Jesus was when he was here on earth. He didn’t teach about roads he hadn’t traveled on or cultures he didn’t live among (even though as all-knowing God of course he could have).
Instead, he chose to sit with neighbors in neighborhoods, to walk with them in celebration and in grief, to eat meals and use the stuff of meals – bread, salt, wine, fish – in his conversations. He spoke of the future because that’s why he came, but he didn’t do so at the expense of the present.
Curious once we got back home, I looked up the yellow-brick-road poppy field house on google maps. Here is a screenshot of what I found:
Maybe the woman who lives in that house looks forward to those yellow flowers blooming every year. Maybe that field is the first thing she looks at when she walks outside no matter what time of year it is, remembering the beauty that was before and the promise of beauty to come again. Maybe “beauty” is a terrible word for what I’m trying to say here. Maybe she doesn’t divide it up like that at all – the beautiful and the not beautiful. Maybe I don’t get to say what’s beautiful since I don’t actually live there.
As a traveler with a curbside view, I notice her house because of all the pretty color, snap a photo and that’s all I see. But it doesn’t always look that way and the people who live there know that. They embrace the yellow when it comes but they don’t leave with it. They continue to live there, among the brown fields with their golden memory, beneath the sky when it’s blue and when it’s gray, within the little white house on the vast green lawn at the end of the gravel driveway.
Home isn’t either beautiful or not, happy or sad, full or empty. Home is both and home is and, whether home is church or family or a cul-de-sac. Home has good parts, hard parts, marvelous and miracle parts. Home is where we celebrate and where we grieve, where we are broken and healed, hurt and made whole again.
And if this is your house? Please tell us about the fields of gold in spring and how it feels in winter, about the distant tree-line and living off the highway and if you always have that Sting song in your head. Or this Eva Cassidy version:
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