wayfinding home

“I did not grow up in a religious house. We just went to church on Sundays.”

I said this Tuesday night while holding a bundle of limp kale in the kitchen in the midst of yelling at communicating with my husband about his upcoming job interview in Texas. “I am a New Englander with anger management problems. How am I going to fit in?”

He hadn’t even packed and I had moved us to the Deep South where my feet were already broiling on the pavement and the southern Baptists were at my door warning of my pending descent to hell. I was picturing parking lots the size of football fields, a garden shriveled from the latest drought, and ladies with big boobs and bigger bangs handing me a semiautomatic as I deplaned.

Please note I have actually visited Texas before. I drove straight across the plains and up through the panhandle into Oklahoma the summer of 2003. And none of the aforementioned things happened. I realize I am completely stereotyping the Republic of Texas just as I envision my home state as a bastion of rainbow flags and fair trade coffee. Not so.

It’s just that for the past nine years I have been wayfinding the West with an internal GPS oriented towards Boston. I moved to Gilroy, California with the intention of staying in The Golden State for two, maybe three years. I promised my mom. And I live in Utah now. I’ve spent much of the past decade trying to define this notion of home that has been a marker on the move. While living in California I always referred to home as Massachusetts. In Utah, I have held on to my California license despite literally having put roots in the ground.

Last weekend I had to rebuild some of the rows in my garden. The spring in northern Utah has been especially cool. Some of my seeds were late to germinate, some never did, and others washed away from the fractured rows. Then there was the 70 percent that made it. They took and held on through the bouts of sun, rain, and snow. I looked at the patchy rows—some with tufts of carrots separated by swaths of dirt—and wondered what makes some seeds tougher than others. And what type of seed am I? When I originally planted in early April I proudly informed my neighbor Jack that I am a gambler. But I am beginning to wonder if this is really the case. If I am, wouldn’t I be a little more open to change?

Last year I nearly killed my entire collection of tomato and cucumber starts because I failed to recognize that I needed to harden them off to the sun. My friend Matt, a Utah native who grew up farming, looked at my pathetic tomato starts and suggested I just replant. “They won’t make it,” he said.

But he was wrong.

By midsummer most of my starts were unrecognizable. They wound up producing more fruit than we could eat. I found evidence of the bounty this spring when chucking rotted yellow tomato skins from the topsoil. And though I may not make it to the fall harvest, I continue planting more and more rows in the beds. Because that is what I do here.

While it’s way too early to think about peppers, I have decided to conduct an experiment. I pulled three pots from the garage and planted some Anaheims. By the time they are ready to be transplanted we should have a sense of direction, whether it be Boston, Austin, or the same plot I marked off last year. I will take any survivors and put them in the ground. And then recalibrate.

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