Every Friday we go to the little white library. The entire drive there is along hilly country roads lined with trees thick with fat green leaves. They say the caterpillars this year ate over half of the state’s oaks but looking out the windows of the truck, you’d never know it.
The library is fourth in a row of tiny white buildings. Behind them is a large field that is always mowed and beyond that are rolling hills carpeted in emerald, curved like the spine of someone in child’s pose. Every time I pull into the parking lot, I feel like I’m entering a postcard, but the kind you’d only find at a flea market tucked in the corner of a dusty box, the edges yellowing, the signature on the back barely legible.
There are so many differences between life here and life in Texas, many of which are obvious. But the biggest shift I feel is within myself. I’m able to breathe deeper here, and the air always smells faintly of tomato plants. I swear it goes into my lungs so much easier and always feels more clean, more crisp, more alive. In Austin it kind of feels like I’m choking, my inhales heavy like the gravy on the bottom of a stovetop pot, thick and over-settled.
I have gone through so many iterations of who-I-am-and-what-I-believe in my short lifetime, so much so that sometimes I really do wonder if I’m just living in fast-forward mode, sort of like a dog, and am now actually 90, nearing the end. But despite the constant evolving, there are some things that remain entirely unchanged. I love the simple, the sacred, the sunshine that doesn’t hurt the surface of my thin skin. I long for quiet front porch nights, knitting blankets that will never be finished; eating pies baked with handmade dough, familiar thumbprints on the crust; fishing after dinner and pulling up worms before breakfast; wading in the rivers, digging in gardens, sleeping in the lakeside sand. Libraries with quilting clubs that meet once a month.
Today the librarian asked why I never get any books for myself, why I’m always only asking for the kids. “I usually read my favorites over and over and over,” I confessed and she smiled as she got up from the chair behind the desk. “Come with me, Michelle,” she said.
This library is small, and you can see the whole thing if you stand in the middle and spin in a circle. She walked to the right corner, and I followed, nervous she was going to bring me to an epic war biography, and I wouldn’t know how to politely decline without hurting her feelings. Instead she scanned the shelf at eye level and pulled out a book by an author I adore, but a title I had never heard of.
“I think you’ll like this,” she said.
When I got back to the campground, I asked Thomas if I could have an hour to read, quietly. I knew it was technically still his working time, and I was on kid duty, but I was so curious about this book. He said he’d take them right to mini golf, and before they were even out of sight, I was curled up in a blanket on a lawn chair outside by our fire pit.
I only made it to chapter five when I began to cry.
It wasn’t because the book was sad, because it wasn’t (yet). It was because this librarian, who I only speak with at the library for maybe ten minutes each week in the summer, knew I’d love this novel. I went to a little local place, and I saw a sweet familiar face, and she knew me well enough to know what I'd love to read. And if that’s not the most heavenly definition of what it feels like to be home, then I don’t know what is.
Today I realized there is a part of my heart that has a big hole in it where feeling like you belong is supposed to go. Not in a way that something was taken away, but more like it was never there to begin with. And I think coming back here this year, the act of returning after being away for so long, is patching it up one stitch, one fishing trip, one afternoon playing cards with Great Gram, one thoughtful simple book suggestion, at a time.
I know our time here in Connecticut is almost half done, but in this moment, just as the rain begins to fall and the thunder roars through my open window, I am nothing but grateful.