Sunday, March 22, 2009

How a Sky Can Make You Homesick

Every year it is a new surprise, how just the fact that the days are getting longer makes it feel like spring really might be around the corner. I no longer drive home from work in complete darkness. Some nights, like this past Wednesday, I get to enjoy a stunning sunset. And as much as that visual gift made me smile and not be so anxious for the light to turn green, it also did a number on my emotions. Because seeing a beautiful sky can sometimes make me just a little bit homesick.

When we moved to this East coast state just over two and a half years ago we did it with purpose. We sought out this move and were thrilled when the job offer came through. My family is spread out all over the United States but Jeff's family is mostly concentrated in New Hampshire. They are all people I love being around and want my children to know personally, not just through pictures on the fridge and a visit every three years. We were very excited to get back to the East coast.

But as much as we were excited about New York and all the great things about being closer to family, there was no denying we were also leaving something very special behind. Having lived in Utah for three years we had grown some pretty significant roots. We were a part of a small tight- knit church, being one of the few congregations that were not Mormon. We lived on a street that could have come straight out of Leave it to Beaver, filled with growing families who met regularly on each other's driveways when evening walks turned into chats that stretched to almost bedtime. The children and I learned to ski on snow that is just as perfect as the ads declare and with cheap season passes for locals, we spent most winter weekends flying down perfectly groomed slopes.

But one of my favorite things about living in Utah was the sky. In our first few weeks there I kept catching myself telling long distance friends and family, "the sky is just so big here…" I know Montana is supposed to be big sky country but Utah has its own version of the extra large vista. You could honestly see weather fronts moving in from miles away. I loved the thirty minute drive to Salt Lake City, with the shimmering Great Salt Lake off to my left, and the huge sweeping sky spread out in front of me. More than once I pulled off the side of the road and tried to capture the latest amazing view with my camera. Most of the time a picture could not do justice to the magnitude of what lay in front of me.

New York is not without its own treasures. Life in the Utah valleys means the only trees to be found are dainty overgrown twigs that are more decoration than nature, breaking up the monotony of too many small square bushes lined up in front of the house. It is a desert state and any foliage that appears in suburbia yards is there because of rigorous watering schedules and hard working sprinkler systems. My boys were in awe the first time we drove the tree lined back roads of New York. Visions of tree houses and tire swings danced in their heads. Neither were an option in our old state.

Their only request when we were scanning real estate ads was that our new house come with 'good woods'. After two perfect houses fell through we finally got our third pick and, looking back, it really was the best of the three. It came complete with five acres of exquisite woods. In the spring and summer my boys and their friends can spend the entire weekend tromping around back there, doing whatever boys do, in their very own forest.

We have loved hiking through New York's national parks and finding new favorite lookouts. Having family close enough to see on a regular basis is just as great as I thought it would be. Being able to explore New York City and Boston, and still be able to sleep in our own beds at night has been exciting. And the trees…ahh, the trees. We have hung a hammock, strung up a tire swing and the boys are constantly adding to their tree fort in the woods.

But on days like last Wednesday, when the drive home treats me to a gorgeous sliver of sunset, there is only one place I can think about. It's not the place I grew up and I have no flesh and blood family there. I just lived there long enough to be captivated by its magic and its amazing skies. I suspect that as I start to feel like a New Yorker more with every passing year a part of me will always yearn for that great state out west. A place where we made lifetime friends. A place where the skiing is consistent and amazing. And a place where the skies seem to have no end.

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