“There is an eternal landscape, a geography of the soul; we search for its outlines all our lives.” –Josephine Hart
Some people are born and raised in one place and never leave, except for brief visits and vacations to somewhere else. When I was a kid, born and raised in Oklahoma, all I wanted to do was take a vacation to somewhere far away. Even though I was right in the middle of Green Country and the foot of the Ozarks, a region of Oklahoma known for its majestic scenery and natural beauty, I wanted to leave it for a while, not realizing how it would never leave me. I got my wish when at just eighteen I made a series of spontaneous decisions and followed my heart out of Oklahoma, out of the United States, and began a decade of experiences that shaped my future as a woman, a mother, and a writer.
It is good to travel. There is something about seeing other parts of my own country, of other countries, that gives me a broader picture of what this life might be all about. Surely when the Master Artist created this magnificent world with so much symmetry, creativity, and a mosaic of beautiful people, He wanted us to see more than our little pocket of earth. Of course, travel is expensive and not always possible. My own growing up years were a series of weekend visits to hills that could almost be mountains, trees that needed to be climbed, and bluffs from which I jumped with abandon, splashing into the cold creek below. Now that I’m older, I think those were pretty good excursions, hanging out with my family, and not even realizing I was on a vacation so close to home or that those experiences would later influence the setting in at least one of my novels (Waking Up Joy).
There is nothing wrong with never leaving home. Home is safe, and beautiful, and a good place to grow. In novels I have written, I love to make characters flourish in their own houses and communities. There is a message I want to send to the people who don’t get to leave home, or who can’t, that their lives matter right where they are, but for me, the author, I love to travel. When I was young and wanted to be a journalist, I wanted to see all the places I’d read about in the books I got from my school library and from my grandma, and I wanted to travel so badly that I made a rash decision that took me away from my mom on Mother’s Day.
On Mother’s Day, I launched myself on a plane out of the landscape of my youth, to one dotted with thatched cottages, stone walls, and the incredible beauty I’d dreamed about of lands far away, just like I’d read about in my stacks of books. While I was in England, I made beautiful friendships that would last my whole life, had incredible adventures I can retell to my children, and experienced cultures other than my own. I also traveled a personal journey. I hadn’t counted on the trials that would accompany the landscape of becoming an adult. Those parts of novels seemed remote to me at the time, but as the landscape around me changed, so did I, and so did my life. Over the years I’ve launched from the UK back the states to landscapes of California mountains and vineyards, and on to Wyoming where the landscape ranges from majestic mountains to strange rock formations that seem to belong on a far away planet. This is where I live now, even though I go back to my original Oklahoma home often. I’ve been in Wyoming long enough that I call it home.
I feel like I have more than one home.
I still have the travel bug and enjoy seeing landscapes of different places around the United States. I still want to go abroad again, but the landscape of my life is here for now. The people have changed, although not all, the scenery has changed, I have changed, and yet I’m also still the same girl who left her mom when she was barely a woman to figure out who she was on Mother’s Day.
I’m sure I will leave again someday, at least for a while, because life is more interesting when I travel, whether I’m being launched on an airplane, in a car, or just moving through life and watching the landscape that consists of my children, community, and friends. I’ll always come back here, because I wouldn’t change my current landscape.
I’ve had adventures and want to have more, but I like being home. I like the landscape of my life right now, the beauty of my own backyard, my favorite green lawn chair, the pink flamingo I call my muse and that I leave out in all kinds of weather, a shelf of books yet to be read, and my husband and kids dotting the landscape of this season, even though they are growing up and moving on way too quickly for my liking.
There are only a few years left before the kids move out and on to explore the landscape of their own lives. Then my husband and I will have time to travel more, but at first, my heart is going to want to follow them, just as my mom’s must have wanted to do on that Mother’s Day a long time ago, before my own launch.
Tina Ann Forkner is an author of Women’s Fiction. Her novels include Waking Up Joy, Ruby Among Us, and Rose House. http://www.tinaannforkner.com