I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a Kentuckian in Paris.
This fall, I went to Florida. It could have been a worse trip. There were a few complications; however, I learned, yet again, to focus on the small, joyful things.
KY over FL
Joyful things, like the amazing sunrise through a cloud that was roughly shaped like Kentucky. Joyful things, like feeding stingrays at the Florida Oceanographic Center. Joyful things, like watching 17-year-old Number Two Child introduce 20-month-old Number Four Child to sand and shell and ocean spray. Joyful things, like being an adult on vacation with my parents and not feeling the parent-child strain.
You know, joy-full things.
I was certainly full of joy when we turned toward home.
I’m not talking about the sad, rapid disappearance of the water’s edge on our last day. I’m talking about the Thursday boating trip we took down the St. Lucie River. To get to the river, we had to actually leave the dock. And we had to travel through the intercostal waterway.
Two days before, we had done the exact same thing, except our destination was the Indian River toward the Jupiter Lighthouse. That river was great! We saw big boats and little boats. Pelicans and sea gulls and blowfish and egrets and jellyfish and little stripey fish and sea eagles. There was no shortage of incredible views to tuck into our memory pockets. Though a thin strip of land separated us from the open ocean, the water was relatively calm and, once we reached the tail end of the river before it spilled out into big water, we could see clear down to the sandy bottom.
But on Thursday, traveling through the intercostal waterway to actually get to the river was an exercise in faith. The wind scooped out Punji pits and raised up menacing frothy crests. The boat dipped and rolled and crashed against waves that left salty impressions in our eyes and mouths. Impressions that made us acutely aware of this fragile life we have.
Once we actually turned and traveled a while down the St. Lucie River, the water smoothed out. And so did my heart rate. Even though I was super grateful for this time with my family on the boat, I also knew that, in order to return to the dock, we had to face that churning water again.
I don’t know about the folks who will read this, but this year, this 2015, has been a very difficult year.
Personally, I have experienced a multitude of lessons and pains and joys. Our family left one church and joined another. I started on the full-time freelance journey. My mom was deemed cancer-free. I said goodbye to my last grandparent. I finally emerged from the over-a-year-later oppressive fog of post-partum depression. I was called to testify against the biological father of my three eldest children. I found out what people really believed, and what they really believed about me once they found out what I believed. I planted my very own garden. I quit two writer’s groups and started something totally new. I learned about zines and made a mini-zine. I discovered I could be stronger than I imagined. I also discovered that my strength is nothing compared to the strength of my God, and I find a comfort in that. I have written a lot this year, most of it is dung, but there have been some jewels that I really am proud of in a healthy way. I watched as, for the first time in over forty years, the land upon which I was raised was sold and no longer Stoney Point Farm owned by Bobby and Clayton Robinson. I have seen the meanness in school children. I have seen the ineptitude in leaders. I have witnessed a rejection of faith and an embrace of faith. I have wondered just where I fit, what I could do, how I should respond to any of it, to all of it.
And just last Friday, I saw the effects of terror yet again.
When I was a kid, I learned, measure by measure, the breadth of my world. The inside of my mother’s arms. Our house and yard. The farm. When school arrived, my world grew yet again to include the inside of a school bus, the mysterious and exotic five-mile-away North Middletown, the giant-to-a-kid elementary school. And so on and so forth …
I can remember when I first learned that Tennessee had a Paris. Texas had a Paris. France had a Paris. At first, I thought there was no way. Are you kidding me? There is no Paris like my Paris.
Really, I was right.
And, really, if I had claimed all those other Parises as my hometown, and I thought that there was no Paris like my Paris, I would have still been right.
When, of late, I think about what it really means to be a Kentuckian in Paris, I am reminded of the two days in the boat, how different they were, the relief of calmer river waters, the knowledge that, in order to get home, there would be the inevitable, uncertain crossing. I think of all the years of all the lessons and pains and joys. I think of the differences and the familiarity and the solidarity because home is home is home is home, no matter the latitude or longitude.
For this Kentuckian in Paris, it is the coordinates of the heart that make the joy-full things worth the strange roughness of the journey to finally arrive.