Tag Archives: home

Leaving Home, Finding Another

When I first sat down to write this post, it was still the middle of summer. From my dining room table, I could see a fuzzy-tailed squirrel, nature’s acrobat, scamper across the top of the wooden fence around our backyard. The sun was just peaking over the third story of our building to kiss the petals of the tallest sunflowers across the alley. I could hear the steady chirp of crickets. I’m listening to them now; they seem to never stop.

As I sit down to finish this post, it is officially autumn. The days are becoming gradually shorter, with cool mornings and breezy nights. Trees are going from green to orange yellow red. Most of the sunflowers have wilted. Each time a squirrel jumps from one branch to another, a few leaves come wind-sailing down to Earth. The sweet shift of the seasons, something hard to find in Southern Arizona, is poignant here in the Midwest.

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Late afternoon in our backyard

Things are not so bad in Missouri. I’d go so far as to say they are quite nice, actually. During our first weeks here, most of my questions—posed out loud to no one in particular, as usual—were of the “what type of plant is that?” nature. I’ve learned and forgotten the names of so many plants: coleus, hosta, cone flower… Things just grow here! Things I’ve never seen before. And there are trees, so many, many trees. The streets are lined with sidewalks, which makes getting around on foot much more enjoyable. It seems that you need only drive another mile to reach the next park, which is just as green and inviting as the last. Good food is ubiquitous and inevitable. People smile. Children play. The sun rises each morning. So why am I so often overcome with sorrow? I am surrounded by all of these good, pleasant things, and yet all I can long for is home.

This will be the second time in my life that I’ve pined for Arizona. The first time, when I was living in France, I was surprised to learn that a critical aspect of who I am is inextricably linked to the place—the actual geography—that I call home. I feel deeply tied to Arizona, its skies, its mountains, its forests, and its deserts. It is part of who I am. So when I feel homesick, I am not just thinking of all the people I love back home; I am longing for Arizona. The place. Having experienced that homesickness once before, I was more prepared for it this time around in St. Louis. But that hasn’t made it any less difficult. All I want, in this very moment, is to stand atop a mountain and be able to see for miles in all directions, to be able to see the sun kiss the horizon, to be able to take a deep breath of crisp Arizona air.

But there aren’t any mountains here. Not a single one.

I cannot control what St. Louis lacks. As I did in Paris, I have had to be very intentional about choosing to look for and appreciate what St. Louis offers. And believe me, it offers plenty! There is always something going on, and most events are free. Two weeks ago was the Great Hot Air Balloon Race, and this weekend we went to the first of several Oktoberfest celebrations. Even if there is nothing going on, I can always take a bike ride through beautiful Forest Park or visit any of the numerous free museums. When I start to write all of these things down, it reminds me that St. Louis is truly a wonderful place to live. This city gives me a lot to be grateful for. Even so, it doesn’t feel like home. Not yet.

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Fun at Oktoberfest St. Louis; photo courtesy of Nick Youmans

Places are, for me, like people. It takes time to get to know them, to figure them out, and to make space in my heart. For me to feel at home in a place, I have to build a relationship with it. And like any relationship, that takes time. In fact, both of my moves outside of Arizona have felt a little bit like online dating, except once you go out on the first date, you’re stuck in that relationship for the foreseeable future. I did some research on St. Louis, checked it out, asked around. The background check was good enough to convince me to give the place a shot, and St. Louis made a good first impression. But like any new relationship, it has a honeymoon phase and a shit-just-got-real phase. That’s the phase I’m in now, and there’s no going back. But I have high hopes for the Lou. And assuming this desert critter survives the winter, things just might get more serious.

 

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Filed under Prose, Travel

Ramblings: Returning to Arizona, Reflecting on Paris

The ease with which a person can put one life on hold and resume another astounds me.

Yesterday marked three weeks since I left Paris. In those three weeks I have slipped seamlessly into old routines, places, activities and relationships. I wear cut-off denim shorts and tee-shirts. I meet friends at the same coffee shops I’ve been going to since I was teenager. I drive my car through mountains and across deserts that have been the backdrop of my life story since the day I was born. My transition back into my American life in Arizona has appeared to be as painless as getting behind the wheel of my car—a fleeting moment of confusion; and then, keys in the ignition, foot on the pedal, go.

From Sunset Point, Arizona

I look back often into my rearview mirror. Flickering blue eyes, suggestive smiles, illuminated monuments that never lost their luster, the smell of baking bread before the sunrise—these images and sensations are still vivid and tangible, yet when I recall them I feel the disappointment of memory. These memories will never capture the true experience, and they are rapidly being replaced with new ones—laughter with childhood friends, the sun rising over the Rincon Mountains, lifting myself into eight angle pose for the first time.  If I am able to return to Arizona and fold so easily into my former life, how can I hope to preserve what I know of Paris and who I became there?

Yet, in my experience, transformation that unfolds under intense conditions in a short period of time leaves a much deeper mark than slow, gradual changes. I feel like I’ve changed more emotionally and spiritually in the past three years than I did within the entire first 18 years of my life. And I grew more during my year in Paris than I did in my first two years in Tucson. Of course, everything is cumulative, and the growing pains I had when I was 15, 16, 17 all added up, like deposits in my bank account, to get me where I am today.

So where am I? The place is hard to describe. There are small, visible characteristics: I no longer wear makeup, for instance, which I had done almost everyday since I was about 12. This tiny physical change indicates a much larger shift in my sense of self-worth, for, after the challenges I faced in Paris, I now put more value in my character than in my appearance. My posture is straighter, which, aside from being attributed to a year of regular Hatha yoga, also indicates my increased sense of inner strength. I carry myself confidently now, because I am proud of the person I am striving to become and of the life I am striving to lead.

What’s more is that I am finally in a place where I am more true to myself than I am to the system and expectations imposed upon me. For nearly three years I denied my innate desire to be a nurturer, a teacher and a healer. I told myself I needed to do something more practical with my life than help others, notably young women. So I tried on different hats—journalist, diplomat, politician, researcher, scholar. None of them fit, and I knew that, even as I was wearing them.

Now, after facing my demons for many a grey day in Paris, I can proudly and definitely say that I want to be a nurturer and healer of the human spirit. Concretely, this means becoming a yoga instructor, a youth mentor or counselor, and a teacher. I want to help young people become the best versions of themselves, as my greatest teachers and mentors have helped me to do.

Sunset Point, Arizona

My heart is open, my mind is expanded and my life feels, for the first time, like it is of my own design, a manifestation of my spirit. Here I am, in Tucson, Arizona, a better version of myself than I was when I stepped out of the métro and into the streets of Paris a little over a year ago.

Here I am, in Tucson, Arizona, and it’s the right place to be.

Smiles and all the best,

Savannah

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Filed under Paris, Prose

9 Things I’m Going to Miss about Home (other than home itself)

As my departure for Paris approaches (three days!), I’ve found the most common question my friends and family are asking me is, “Are you excited?!” This is, of course, the most logical question to ask a girl who is moving to Paris, France. It is not, however, what I find myself thinking about as I’m throwing my life into one of two jumbo suitcases or embracing one of my best friends during our final goodbye. In fact, as my count down to take off dwindles, I’m making mental notes of everything I’m going miss about my home and my life here. This doesn’t mean I’m not excited. My excitement just isn’t my top priority right now.

So here’s my list.

 9 Things I’m Going to Miss about Home (other than home itself):

  1. My sister: This little lady and I have become super close this summer! Living without her will not be easy, but I know we’ll make it.
  2. My best friends (particularly this guy, my BFF): I’ve been spending a lot of time with my closest friends during my last few days here. I am so grateful for everything we’ve given each other, and I can’t wait to continue these relationships, regardless of the distance and time that will separate us.
  3. My books: Some of the most difficult moments in packing have come when I’m sitting in front of my bookshelf, looking up at all of my invaluable literature and realizing that I can’t take it all with me. I know, I know, they’re just books. But…but…they’re my books!
  4. The starry night sky: My hometown is breathtaking at night. In the woods, the sky is clear and kazillions of stars sparkle against the ink-like sky. Every time I leave Prescott for a larger city this is what I miss most– looking to the heavens late at night and seeing the entire universe laid out before my eyes.
  5. Cicadas: I know this is weird, but at the end of the summer the cicadas start to come out, humming like engines from tree to tree. I associate this sound with my childhood, the coming of fall and the familiarity of home. I know I will find them in Europe, but there is something about this sound, this time and this place that can’t be replicated.
  6. MEXICAN FOOD: True Mexican food can only be found in the Borderlands. I’ve been doing everything I can to make sure I eat as much of it as possible before I leave.
  7. Driving through the mountains, windows down, music up, day or night: Doesn’t that sound wonderful?
  8. A full sized kitchen: My kitchen in my new apartment is going to be minuscule. I don’t even have an oven. This makes me sad because I love to cook and prepare my food. But of all the cities in the world to be without a legitimate kitchen, Paris might be the best.
  9. The desert: This landscape is another aspect of the Southwest that simply doesn’t exist anywhere else. I will miss its towering cacti and watercolor sunsets dearly, but I know it will be here when I return.

The un-pictured # 10 here is obviously my family, particularly my parents. I couldn’t have dreamt up a better mother and father, and I have them to thank for giving me the love I needed to bring me to this next chapter in my life. It isn’t enough to say that I’ll miss them. Those words don’t even come close.

What do you miss most when you leave home?

A bientôt,

Savannah

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Filling the Void: DIY Chandelier

When my roommate and I moved into our apartment nearly nine months ago, we couldn’t wait to start decorating. We scoured stores of all kinds in search of the perfect decor like two chipmunks gathering nuts for winter. Slowly but surely, we acquired many of the necessary trimmings: color-coordinated pillows, pig-shaped salt and pepper shakers, refrigerator magnets. But several months into our home-making, we found ourselves saddled with one last decorating challenge: the nook. Carved out of our white plaster wall, inconveniently placed just to the right of the couch, is a three-by-four sort of cubby. We weren’t quite sure what to do with it. Perhaps we could get a bird cage and adopt a monkey? Or turn the nook into a theatre and host a flea circus? A shrine?

While these ideas were appealing, none were quite what we wanted. We abandoned the nook until Christmas, when we stuffed it with a miniature tree.

However, Christmas brought inspiration, and thanks to one of my favorite blogs, A Beautiful Mess, I was able to fill the three-by-four void.

Using this DIY design, I crafted a fabric chandelier out of Christmas lights, old scarves and a wire cooling rack. Now, the nook houses some of our favorite books, cute photos and a one-of-a-kind chandelier.

Thank you so much to Rachel, who designed this project! If you’re going to try it for yourself, here are some adaptations I made to her design that you might want to try:

  • Rachel uses texture, like lace, in her design to make the chandelier more exciting. I decided to use color instead. I varied between two shades of blue and white, and both of my blue scarves were patterned.
  • If you have limited fabric, craft your chandelier into an inverted pyramid shape. Just lay the scarves out like diamonds and cut from the outside in. This way, you’ll have an even assortment of short-to-long strands of fabric.
  •  If your fabric is thin, or your chandelier is smaller, use some of the fabric to sew a cylinder for your lights to fit into. Sew or tie it to the wire rack just like the other garlands, and slip the lights inside. This will keep your lights from peeking out from between the strips of fabric.

Thanks again to the ladies at A Beautiful Mess for helping me add a special touch to our home!

I hope you enjoy the soft glow of your new chandelier!

Smiles and all the best,

Savannah

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