It doesn’t matter that I haven’t lived there for more than eight years, a piece of my heart still beats in Southeast Missouri. It doesn’t matter that I love my life in Nashville, because when I get on Highway 25 in Dexter on my way to visit my parents, it feels like going home. It feels like peace, like a comfortable sweater you settle around your shoulders. When I turn on my parents’ road, the road of my childhood, now paved instead of gravel, I roll down the windows and Muffin and I take in the smell. We revel in a sky full of stars that you can’t see in the city. We breathe deep and this time of year, our lungs expand with the smells of fall: sun-warmed corn stalks, the damp smell of just-picked corn, cotton defoliant with a brisk feel to the air. I feel at home there, among the cotton fields. I feel safe and protected, loved without cost. It’s the place I grew up; it’s the place that has contributed so much to who I am; it’s still home after all these years. And when I cross the Mississippi and then the Ohio River and watch them merge and surge on toward the sea, watching the flat land of my childhood fade from view in the rearview mirror, there’s always a part of me that gets a little sad. Because a part of my heart still lives there, surrounded by the dearest family and friends, by memories and lessons learned, by love.
There’s a piece of my heart that lives in Columbia, Mo. It’s the place where I learned I could take care of myself, where my faith became my own, where my calling became clear. I miss the chill in the air sometimes, the outrageous beauty of the Quad on an autumn day. I miss the friends and fun, basketball games, and the sight of a sea of black and gold. I miss the relationship with my friends, my church, the camraderie of faculty and students in the J-school. I miss fall in Columbia and the remarkable definition of seasons, something that happens in Nashville, but not to that extent. A part of my heart will always be in Columbia, the college and city that taught me how to write, but also showed me how to live.
A part of my heart lives in the Sangre de Cristo mountains above Santa Fe, New Mexico. Somewhere in the scraggly juniper and pines, red earth and pueblos, my heart beats and thrills with every bit of the landscape. Santa Fe remains the one place I’ve loved upon first sight—before the plane even landed. I love the peace I feel there, especially at Glorieta. I love the beauty of God’s creation. I love the food, the people, the history. I love the knowledge that it is a place God has worked before and a place he will work again. I may have never lived there and I probably never will, but nevertheless, the area has captured my heart.
A part of my heart beats in Nashville. The stopping off point of many a family vacation, it’s the place I said I wanted to live as a child. I liked it then because it was big and bustling, full of music and adventure, so unlike my hometown. I didn’t know I’d have the opportunity to live here. I didn’t know that a place could become home so quickly, could leave such a noticeable mark on your soul. As much as I love to travel, it’s here I want to come home to. I love the small-town feel of a fairly large city. I love the attitude, the love and respect for music, the history, and the promise of a future. Nashville is the city my child’s heart adored; it’s also the city my adult heart calls home. Nashville is where I became an adult, put my faith into action, and settled down. It’s Nashville’s skyline that comforts me, excites me, encourages me. As I listen to the city wake up this Friday morning, I bask in the knowledge that I don’t want to be anywhere else. That the joy and happiness I feel in this moment wouldn’t be the same anywhere else. Nashville has captured my heart and there’s no going back. Should I ever leave, a piece of that heart will remain here.
What a blessed life I’ve been able to lead. Such wonderful places, such amazing relationships, such beauty. It’s exciting to ponder what the future may hold.