By Beth Winze
This week I have spent the majority of my time looking out the window of my dorm room watching the mountains burst into greenery behind the streaking rain consistently falling. And that’s a summary of my week. Waking up to rain, managing the headache caused by allergies, walking to class, and regretting my decision not to carry an umbrella. Repeat 15x. I feel as if I have been magically transported to India and am learning what it means to be a child of the monsoon season. Rain puddles and my Chaco’s have become well-acquainted. As many headaches, soaked book bags, wet papers, and humidified poof of hair days that I have suffered through this week, I love my home here. There is a passionate draw my heart has found for the mountains. I can give you plenty of euphemisms that would indirectly describe my love for the green giants I live among.
Since I was eight weeks old, moving has been a part of my life. Learning to tear up roots to find a new place to plant them and uprooting them again only a few years later. I used to hate this when I was younger. I saw every uprooting as another case in which I would never call that place my forever home. For the longest time this was a wound I nursed with bitterness and frustration, but like most things in my life, I quickly learned how valuable these experiences are. This summer will mark the longest time I have lived in one specific place. For eight years, I have slowly learned and even adopted some of the ways of the South.
You see, I am Midwestern by birth, Northern by upbringing and Southern by adoption. So when people ask where I am from, I hand them a patchwork quilt of collected cities, states, and houses that I have lived in throughout my lifetime. Through my many trips to family’s homes and my birthplace in Kansas, I know what the hard life of a farmer means. And the unpredictability of Midwestern weather. I know what living in the suburb of Chicago, the third largest populated city in the United States, feels like. The way cloudy days were not always necessarily clouds, but rather smog. The excitement and thrill of riding the AmTrak into Chicago every year to play tourist of our own home. And I also know what it means to be a Southerner, going with the flow and being friendly to your neighbors because you rely on them amore then you think. I am also diversified in the art of living in a fifth wheel (yes, for six weeks), apartments, and homes. And for the longest time I hated that all of this was part of my story. I detested the uprooting, meeting new people, and trying to make a new place your home. But since I have outgrown that angsty teenage state of frustration, I have learned to appreciate and treasure all of that. The hundreds of boxes unpacked, furniture moved, and friends made have all taught me a vital lesson. Home is not a forever place. It’s a place that you feel most comfortable at in that moment in your life.
Right now my home is in Cullowhee, North Carolina. Since August I have come to the realization that this is my home now. I am most comfortable here at this point in my life. Who knew that some unheard of mountain town would be such a treasured place for me. Thinking about leaving here in three weeks creates a weird separation anxiety in my heart.
There is something I have found that has drawn me fiercely to the mountains. The way their rise does not always meet their run giving them a gentle lopsided look. The fact that fifteen minutes off campus I have access to one of the most breathtaking views I have ever encountered. That a ten minute drive can find oneself at a 6,053 foot elevation looking over at the Tennessee and Georgia borders and finding no end to the mountains. The way the fog rolls over the mountains in the morning and curls around the treetops creating a fantasy like portrait. The Tuckasegee that cuts through the mountains slowly carving it’s imprint into the landscape permanently. It is hard to be in a place as exotic as this and not fall in love. There is something about standing at the top of a ridge of mountains, looking over all the other mountains that never reached the same height and feeling so infinitely big and small at the same moment. Shouting into oblivion because no one is around to stare. The mountains make the skyline. Not man-made skyscrapers that fill the sky with chemical clouds. The uneven distribution of mountains, valleys, and ridges favoring pinched fabric as if it was thrown randomly. But nothing is random here. Everything has it’s purpose. Slow, unrequited beauty not easily tamed and begging for appreciation. They stand in their own glory needing no clothes except the sunset painted sky to accentuate their darkened curves against the horizon.
This is my home right now. In two and a half years this will not be my home anymore, as I will graduate and find a new place to call home, but for the time being I plan on taking every opportunity to plant my roots deeply in the soil here and growing as much as I can. Because with every move, new home, new friend groups, and changed scenery, I have grown taller. It has taken me far too long to realize that, but it is never too late to call a place home.