This week as I revisit the place where I was born and raised I am finding out that much more has changed than has stayed the same. This simple fact is not entirely pleasant and I am struggling to reconcile the place where I grew up, that is still so real and unchanged in my mind, with the reality that exists now. So much has changed that I find it difficult to navigate the streets where familiar businesses and landmarks once stood. My elementary school and the public library have been razed and rebuilt, unfamiliar buildings now that hold no memories or meaning for me. Restaurants and shops I used to patronize with family and friends are gone, too. It is surreal and sad, to feel like a stranger in my own hometown.
One thing, though, has not changed. I wasn’t thinking of it when I came home, my eyes were not longing to see it, my heart was not aching with its absence. At least I didn’t realize it if that was the case. What hasn’t changed, and what has meant the most to me with each day I stay here, is the sky. The big, beautiful, endless sky that I can see from everywhere and anywhere, that stretches above me and spreads out around me in every direction. For many years now I have lived in an incredibly beautiful community full of woods. Woods with huge old trees, woods overgrown with honeysuckle and wild grapevines and poison ivy, woods burgeoning with dense undergrowth, crisscrossed with streams and creeks, and full of deer, rabbits, foxes, opossums, raccoons, squirrels, and so many birds, from house sparrows and goldfinches to majestic hawks, owls, and herons. It is indescribably wonderful to be so close to nature, to be able to walk with my family in such a fresh and green environment, to catch frogs and chase butterflies and play Poohsticks on the foot bridges. I never tire of walking in the woods, never cease to be amazed and grateful when a deer darts across my path or a turtle trundles by or an impossibly huge beetle bumps its way through the leaves and pine needles on the forest floor. I see all these things and I am in love with what I see, but I don’t see the sky. Certainly not the way I see it here.
Where I am now is an area that grew and prospered and thrived thanks to agriculture. Here we have mountains that wouldn’t even be considered hills in other parts of the country. We have green slopes and rolling hills. We have the dark green, low growing soybeans and the lighter green of the tall, tall stalks of corn. For acres and acres, as far as the eye can see, we have farmland. and above this rich and fertile and oh-so-green land, we have the sky. Big and open, dark with clouds bringing rain for our crops, or heart-stoppingly blue, punched up with fluffy clouds of the purest white. We have slanting bars of sunlight, we have sunsets of red and orange and purple, we have jagged forks of lightning and shimmering, ephemeral rainbows. We have skies full of stars and an unhindered view of the moon in every phase. It is glorious. I didn’t realize how much I missed this until I saw it all again before me and above me. Back home I don’t often see the moon. The splendor of the sunset is glimpsed, piecemeal, through the thick foliage and obscuring branches of the trees, when it is seen at all. If I am to see the moon I usually have to go looking for it. And when there is a rainbow I only know because other people share photos on social media. That’s just the way it is, and certainly being so near the woods is worth the sacrifice of seeing less of the sky.
But now that I am here, and the sky is all around me, I realize I have missed this, too. Change is constant and real. But there are some things in this hurried, ever changing world that DO stay the same. The heavens are telling the glory of God and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. And for that, I am so grateful.