Remember "The Wizard of Oz?" Dorothy's black and white everyday life bursts into brilliant technicolor as soon as the cyclone drops the old Kansas farmhouse alongside the yellow brick road in a land among people the likes of which she'd never seen. I feel today a bit like Dorothy.
The sun sets in a misty sky here, or at least it has since we arrived in the Carolinas for this special vacation with my parents, just Tim and me with Mom and Dad. We've walked in the mountains, visited a bee farm, a pottery and even met a cheesemaker. We've enjoyed local art and museums. I write now from the last leg of our memory-making journey, in the Georgia countryside far south of Atlanta at my sister’s place.
My baby sister and her family live a very different life than ours. Their two dogs, three cats and four laying hens freely range rolling hills, lush from recent rains. Tall Georgia pines front the dense forest surrounding their peaceful acres.
It takes everybody to keep a little farm like this working well, so each of the kids has chores. One tractor-mows the tall grass. Another searches for and collects the hens' daily deliveries. I landed a chore I've quickly grown to love. Alongside my niece, I get to feed and groom the horses.
Twice a day, at dawn and dusk, the horses come to the barbed-wire border between backyard and pasture where they wait for Anna and me. We pull on boots, greet Dally and her five-month-old filly Lively, and they follow eagerly as we traipse to the barn. Anna and I get buckets and draw water from the tank to mix with feed. Greedy mama that she is, Dally will eat the filly's share plus her own, so we separate them on opposite sides of the barn. While they eat, Anna chooses tools from her grooming kit, hands a couple to me, then assigns me one of the horses to brush and clean. This is my favorite part.
The smell of earth, grass and horse mix with honeysuckle growing along the fence. I'm overwhelmed by an organic rush of joy for this simple, quiet ministry from my hands to the horse and from the horse to my spirit. I think about the hundreds of horse farms in Denton County where lots of someones get to do this day-in and day-out. I admit, I'm a bit envious now that I’ve experienced the inner tranquility that comes with the daily ritual.
Life on the farm is slower. Not dull; just busy in a more natural way. Right this moment, a white cat named Snow is cleaning himself while wrapped quite literally around my computer as I sit writing on the back porch. Another of my nieces is across the yard relaxing in the swing. Hundreds of bees and butterflies are flitting among flowering vines that crawl up the post of a tall birdhouse atop which sits a mockingbird. A deer just emerged from the woods in the field behind the pasture. There is no sound of traffic, sirens, airplanes or even neighbors. Just nature. "My sister lives as close to Heaven as I've ever been on Earth," I think to myself.
Six-year-old Erin is the youngest Georgia niece. "Aunt Kim, what does your shirt mean?"
"I heart Denton," I said. “It means I love Denton."
She thought a moment. "What is Denton?"
"It is my city. My job is to tell people about Denton," I explained.
"And what do you tell them?" she countered innocently.
So I told her about Denton, Horse Country, music, history and friends. And the more I talked, the more I felt like Dorothy must have as her Oz excursion was winding down. In spite of the bold colors, great adventures and fantastical characters she encountered, Dorothy realized there is no place like home. She longed to return to the regular routines, people and places of every day.
They say, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” While Denton is never colorless to me, sometimes a little time away cranks the color up higher than ever. In fact, I see home now in my mind's eye.
Remember Dorothy's tears as she closed her eyes and clicked the heels of her ruby-red slippers? I feel that, too. Ours has been a wonderful odyssey and time with my folks I will treasure always. I’m sad for it to end! At the same time, home is where the heart is, and I hear mine calling that it's time to come home.