When people ask me where I’m from, I always answer the same way. “Nebraska,” I say. “I live in Nebraska, but I’m from Massachusetts.” I want to make sure they know about my roots. Because even though I’ve lived here almost 15 years, the truth is, in my heart I still call Massachusetts home.
I love Nebraska. I love its wide, expansive sky. I love the way the fields are brushed brown to green to gold in harmony with the seasons. I love how Nebraska has birthed in me a love for trees, simply because there are fewer here. I love the warmth of Nebraska’s people, the small-town feel of Lincoln. I love my tiny yard, my chaise lounge in the corner of the back patio, the little turquoise library I can see from my writing desk.
I don’t pine for Massachusetts on a daily basis. It’s not like I’m moping around the Great Plains, bemoaning the corn fields and the ribbons of road unfurling straight to the horizon and the fact that I absolutely must not forget to wear red on game day. It’s only when I go home for a visit that I am immediately reminded of where my heart truly lives.
I ease awake in the slant of golden August light that warms my childhood backyard, as if part of me has been sleeping this whole time. I awaken to the scent of over-ripe apples decaying in the weeds. I awaken to the oaks, strong and stately, pressed together, a canopy of green. I settle in Massachusetts, wholly, fully, in body, mind and spirit, like I do nowhere else.
In her new book, Roots and Sky: A Journey Home in Four Seasons, Christie Purifoy writes of home and our longing for it so evocatively, so tenderly, it’s almost too much to bear. Yet at the same time she gently reminds the reader of our inclination to idealize and romanticize, of our tendency to allow our dreams and yearnings to define a false reality. There is danger, Christie warns, in fixing our hearts so resolutely on the memories of yesterday and the hopes of tomorrow.
“If I want to abide in this day, to make my home in it, I must only tear my eyes from tomorrow and look around,” Christie writes. “For there is a wholeness to this day that I do not want to miss. As established in the beginning, there is evening and morning. There is sun and moon. There is the cacophony of daytime living and the quiet music of nighttime rest.”
I may never make Massachusetts my home again, and truthfully, this breaks my heart a little bit. But Roots and Sky has also reminded me of this: “When I stop trying to fill my empty places, I leave room for glory.” Christie Purifoy’s eloquent book is a reminder to all of us that there is something good, beautiful and whole, even in our not-quite-home places.
Christie Purifoy lives with her husband and four children at Maplehurst, an old, brick farmhouse in southeastern Pennsylvania. She received her PhD in English Literature from the University of Chicago and, a few years later, traded the classroom for a picket-fenced garden and an old writing desk. Today she grows zucchini her four children refuse to eat (although the zucchini-loving chickens are perfectly happy with this arrangement).
Christie’s first book Roots and Sky: A Journey Home in Four Seasons (Revell) releases today. I simply cannot recommend this book enough. It is stunningly, beautifully written – the kind of book you will return to again and again.