The Heath and The Hearth

Disclaimer: The following post is creative writing and does not really have anything to do with my travels in Mexico. It is meant to be an epilogue to a longer story, which I haven’t written yet. Enjoy.

And so they came again to the quiet dusty road and slowly rounded the bend. Angeline breathed in the fresh air and sweet smell of the honeysuckles as they rode, unhurried. She showed no outward sign of excitement or anticipation as the horses came to a stop in front of the little cottage, covered with vines and surrounded with hollyhocks in the full bloom of summer. Hers was an emotion that surpasses excitement. It was the satisfaction of experiencing, after a long parting, that which has brought the most joy. She could not let the moment pass too quickly by rushing up to the door or whirling through the rooms or the garden. She savored the feel of the delicate flowers and the splintering pickets of the gate as she ran her hand along them. She paused her walk up the garden path to focus her full attention on a lark playing with its mate. Finally, she drew out a small, plain key and fitting it to the lock, subconsciously leaned her ear toward the door to listen for the small clack of the latch opening.

While she relished the interior of the house with the same calm pleasure as she had the garden, he hesitated outside. He watched her closely, perhaps wanting to share in her joy, but not comprehending it fully. He eventually looped the horses’ reins over the fence and walked carefully up the path, wiping his boots off before the gate to avoid defiling what was precious to her with soil from far away. He found her in the kitchen humming softly as she took down cups and saucers for tea, holding each one carefully and tenderly. The table was already spread with a white tablecloth and in a few minutes more it was also decked with a vase of flowers. He had picked them carefully from among the flourishing, but slightly unruly garden.

“I am sorry that I do not have cream or proper biscuits, Harold, but there is some dried fruit from last year and the tea itself is quite good.”

“It is very lovely, Angeline, you needn’t trouble yourself,” though he knew she had not really said this as an apology to him, but as a merry reminder that it would not be many days before she had the pleasure of cream and proper biscuits.

After tea, while she scrubbed the dishes with the same merry tune as earlier, he said suddenly, “Angeline, I must be going now.” The singing stopped and the scrubbing slowed.

“So soon?” She said looking out the window at the playing larks again. It was the first note of sadness in her voice.

“Yes, I am afraid so. I have not stopped by any of my regular posts since before we started out late fall and, well, I might be needed somewhere.” He took her arm, “I hope you will see me to the door.” She smiled politely, “I should think I have remembered enough about hospitality to do that, even for a visitor who leaves sooner than desired.” On the doorstep he faced her as if to speak to her, but could not seem to think of what to say. Finally he almost whispered, “May I kiss you? Not…uh, I mean, just right here,” touching her cheek with his fingers. She blushed a little and nodded. He leaned over and gently kissed her and said in her ear, “I shall think of you much on my travels.” As he walked back up the path, she waited a moment on the threshold and then hurried after him and stood right within the gate as he mounted. “And I of you when I sit and take my tea.”

He thought of nothing else to say, though perhaps he hoped that she would ask him to stay. She neither asked him to stay nor offered to go with him, so he slowly turned his mare in the direction of the road. Harold wondered if his way might take him along this very road again. Perhaps, but his path was seldom the same. Maybe that was why he could not really understand her. Maybe this would not be such a bad place to call home; that is, if someone out there asked him about his home. He could describe the cottage and little garden in front. Yes, it would not be bad to claim a place as home so long as he had the road and excitement and adventures. Before the bend, he took one last look, so that he would know how to describe it; the cottage, the sunlight, the bright blossoms, Angeline still quietly waiting at the gate. Then he made the bend.

Angeline stood awhile after he had left; partly hoping he would turn back, partly urging herself to call for him to wait for her. But neither of these things happened. A few tears fell as she turned from the road, but as she again gazed at the cottage, she quickly thought of all of the chores to be done after her absence. She thought of her recipe box and her little library and the fine linen tablecloths stored for special occasions. She thought of the trimming and hedging to be done in the garden and that it was quite time she moved the foxglove to a sunnier spot. She took a deep breath of relief.

And here ends our story of two people who knew what they loved well enough not to give it up.

Image from unsplash.com

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I Enjoy Being Human

After twenty weeks of hard work, I got to take a two week break in Virginia. Sigh…It was wonderful. It was a very busy break and a lot of things happened, but I am not complaining in the slightest. I would not have wanted to miss any of the things that occurred. I got to celebrate Christmas with my family as usual, though I felt more like an adult since I asked for small, practical presents which I could fit in my suitcase. My family also got to celebrate New Year’s our traditional way with two other close families hanging out in a cabin in the woods for four days. It was nice to get away from the busyness for a little while and play games with each other and I do believe I am permitted to say that an exceedingly merry time was had by all.

Unfortunately, my break was not all pleasant memories. My dad’s mom passed away on break, which was a sad time for our family, but also a kind of relief because she had been battling Alzheimer’s for so long. I was thankful to be in the states and able to attend her funeral and be there for my grandfather and dad. On the other end of the emotional spectrum, a very dear friend whom I have known since elementary school was married and I was able to stand up with her as a bridesmaid and celebrate her next stage of life with a wonderful man. I also got to visit the preschool children I had worked with last year as well as the Sunday School classes I had taught and these visits were each really sweet, as only visits with children can be.

All of these memories from this past trip, the joyful and the sorrowful, felt needed. I know that I have times when I am intensely focused on academics, or career goals, or in intellectually wrestling with what the Christian walk should look like, but this break was a wonderful time to remember that I really enjoy being a human. Though the human race is fallen, being a human is a wonderful gift from God, reflective of Himself. Christ himself chose to share in it. Being human comes with a wide range of experiences, desires, and emotions. It is amazing to think that God instituted marriage and we can find great joy in it. We can also look forward to the day when the church will be wedded to Him! It is amazing that though death is a part of the curse, it is also a way of releasing the suffering to be in the presence of the Lord. This does not mean that death is easy to deal with or that there will not be pain for loved ones, but there is hope. Friendships can never be exactly duplicated or even sustained at the same level, but that is alright. Each relationship is a gift from God in its own way. We can grieve for past friendships and also keep living and look forward to new ones.

I am so thankful to be living now and I am anticipating what experiences, trials, victories, tears, and joys this coming year brings.

Photo credit to Brianna Barnwell

Near, But Not Close

This past week, Lincoln teachers were supposed to notify the school if they were returning for the next year or not. All of the first year teachers are exempt from this decision because we signed a two year contract. Everyone else is on a yearly basis. I feel like I just got here and now I am already going to have to prepare myself to say some goodbyes (though I fortunately will not have to say them until July). On the other hand, I also felt a little envious of the teachers who did decide to return to the States because they will be able to be home sooner than I will.

I really like Guadalajara and I am gradually getting to the place where I enjoy teaching and going to work, but some days I wish life was a just a little bit more “normal” and things operated like they do in the American South. This will be the first time I am missing Thanksgiving with my family and Christmas will feel different because I will be getting in so late I’ll miss most of the parties and such. I probably feel it more because I am not very close to many people here yet. Some relationships are becoming close and important, but that is such a gradual process, most of my really meaningful relationships are still with people back in the states. Part of me just wants to get through this two year commitment with as little attachment here as possible so I can easily make the decision to go back at the end of two years and enjoy the comfort of the familiar and not have to worry about trying to maintain important relationships with my family and friends through e-mail and occasional Skype calls. Mentally, I am taking note not to date someone here because that will automatically sign me up for living here permanently. Obviously, that is not actually the case, but that is how it appears a lot of the time. And of course meaningful and important relationships can also be close friendships, bonds with people at church, with housemates, etc. I know it is not the right response to intentionally hold off relationships, but sometimes it seems like it is just not worth the effort to invest. Especially when my ideal level of closeness in a relationship is really high and it takes a long time (maybe the whole two years of my commitment here) to reach that level.

I am thankful to be going on a retreat with some of the ladies from my church this weekend. We are going to Lake Chapala. I am so excited! This is the first time I have spent the night away from my house or gone any significant distance from Guadalajara. I am so ready for a break from work, computer, and the usual routine. I also really do want to invest in my relationships with the ladies at church. I am so thankful for their Christ-like attitude in welcoming me and helping me to really feel like a part of the church, even when I cause complications because I do not understand things (like last week when I thought I was meeting them at 11:30 and they called me at 11:00 asking where I was).  I’m also thankful for friendship with the Lord and how He has been teaching me recently through personal study and prayer and through other people. What a friend we have in Jesus! Can we find a friend so faithful, who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.

The Photo is my own, of Los Guachimontes.  It reminded me a lot of home.