by Etienne White
Is “home” a feeling or a physicality? And can the two be the same thing? Many folks will be going “home for the holidays” this month. After almost 17 years in the United States, I’m not certain where “home” is anymore.
I always feel suddenly drawn, while traveling through airports, when the departure of a flight to London is called out, as if I could scamper to the gate, buy a ticket and in just a few hours be back in my old home. My beginning was in England, my middle has definitely been in the United States — who knows where my final chapters will play out.
I do know this: When I have to leave the Driftless, part of my heart aches for the piece of myself I leave behind. And whenever I return, seeing the rolling hills for the first time again always feels like a loving “welcome home” hug. The anticipation of what just a day or two back in the Driftless can do for my soul and my heart makes me feel calm. Just knowing with a quiet predictability how the coming days will unfold fills me with a sense of contentment.
Though every sunrise is different, every farming season is a lesson, every hunkering down and embracing the darkness of winter is slightly changed … though they all present themselves in new ways, I know exactly what the bedrock of them will feel like. And I love it.
I embrace growing old here. There are such great role models: the rocky outcroppings, all wizened and majestic, the oak trees in the meadow, casting shade and ancient wisdom in equal measure, and the tall, white pines reaching for the sky. All insanely aged, yet so full of force and fortitude.
The creek runs constantly even in arctic weather; it glides over rocks, gently shifting small gravel “It’s all going to be ok, it’s all going to be ok,” it babbles and babbles. On and on and on, anon. It is as if it is all without an end: the hills, the cows, the sunsets and the lakes, the trout, the streams. As if all are set upon an infinity horizon stretching yonder forevermore.
Yet, we know very well our delineation. We are the unique bedrocks with flowing streams beneath us, dotted with underground caves, rich in minerals and all manner of life force. We are the magical meridian lines running through space and time converging and conjoining. We are the hugging and the laughing and the helping. We are the sharing of food and the dancing and the music. We are the sharing of food and the dancing and the music. We are the bright stars overhead and the vast darkness that surrounds them.
We are the Driftless and we are all each other’s Home.
Etienne White lives where the land meets the sky on a farm in Iowa County where she raises grass-fed, Old English Babydoll sheep, as well as pastured chickens, a happy farm dog, a wily barn cat and her two spirited children. She works at the intersection of marketing and sustainability, leading efforts to create mass consumer behavior change, for the greater good of both people and planet.