I have scooped up a handful of rich, black Iowa topsoil, breathed it in and allowed it to sift through my fingers. I have planted seeds and watched them sprout. I have weeded gardens and planted flowers. My hands have gotten dirty. My grandfather worked the land. His father and brothers before him worked the land, and his mother and father before him. Yet, there are no seeds taking root in my blood.
Solid ground is not what anchors me.
My ancestors were born where salt water meets sand. They were born where the waves polished the rocky shore. How they felt about living on the Northern Atlantic coast of Salten, Norway, and how they lived prior to leaving for America is unknown. Perhaps they struggled to cultivate the land, but grew frustrated with failure and were told America is much more suitable for agriculture. Was the cold climate too harsh? Did they ever miss Norway? How did America change them?
These questions will not remain unanswered for my descendants. They will know that the first place I called home was Des Moines, Iowa. The south side suburb was small, safe and comfortable for a child. Home was also my family and all the people who loved and nurtured me. But the Midwest climate and landscape never nurtured me. Glaciers flattened the central part of the state thousands of years ago, leaving no majestic mountains, rolling valleys, cascading waterfalls or pristine lakes. Just blustery bone chilling winters that contrast with long growing seasons and scorching humid summers. While some people delight in the seasonal changes, I pop Prozac. While the corn and soybeans flourish, I wither.
I first heard the ocean waters calling me back home while on a family vacation during Spring Break in Cancun, Mexico in the mid 1990s. It was completely unexpected. I stood on the beach, enjoying the evening breeze, mesmerized by the indigo waves gently rolling in, toes digging into the soft sand, and knew that my spirit would always soar as high as the gulls as long as I was there.
Several years later, while strolling down Huntington Beach in Los Angeles, friends who knew my affinity for the ocean anticipated my delight. I looked at them, grinned, and declared, "I'm home."
Home is not necessarily Norway or any other northern climate. Home is where water meets sand. Home is where the surf crashes against the boulders. Home is where the waters appear the same from day to day, but beneath the surface, are in a constant state of change. Home is where the moon rises to direct the tides. Home is a shining beacon guiding a ship to shore.