Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Longing for a Sun-scorched Land
The snow is finally melting, and Haley was able to run across the top of the grimy crust this morning when I walked her. The light arrives earlier every morning, and the official start of spring is in 17 days, but the grim cold of winter still seems like it could never leave us. A few days ago there were morning streaks of salmon and orange between the skeletal black tree trunks, and that taste of color reminded me of the flaming sunsets that hovered over Mtwara almost every night that we lived there.
I insist, I didn't pray for three feet of snow this year, but I did enjoy every snow storm, and turned on the porch light to check on each accumulating, sparkling inch. After ten years in a hot country, the magic of pure white snow is not lost on me, even at 54. In the days when, by 9 am, my hair already stuck to my neck in the humid air 10 degrees south of the equator, my fantasy was a cool spring breeze lifting a lace curtain over a feather quilt. Here in America, I catch a whiff of wood smoke and breathe deeply, letting it it transport me back to Africa. Ten years in Tanzania... Ten back in Pennsylvania... It is clear now that my heart will be forever divided, always wistful for my other home. But in an odd twist of my life story, last week I found myself building a snowman in Pennsylvania with two little girls from Kenya who live in our garage apartment. One of many circles I can see in my life!
Back when my mother was still living and holding down 426 Crown Street as the center of our family universe, walking into the center hall of that little house in Morrisville and smelling roasting turkey was the absolute meaning of home.
I guess I won't stand in that center again. In Tanzania, part of me is drawn to Pennsylvania, but here my heart turns daily to the warmth of Africa like a morning glory turning to the sun. After years of wandering, we have our own piece of land and tall trees that spring back to the heights after bowing to the snow. Now the branches of our family are scattered to four continents and four points of the compass: Tanzania, Pittsburgh, Savannah, Chiang Mai, Costa Rica, Germany, Florida, England, Idaho, New York. I'm starting to "get" why older people long for heaven, but right now it is my turn to be home for the travelers. My first deep breath of that perfect air will be scented with turkey, curry, wood smoke, frangipani, pine needles... One breath, and I will know I am finally home.