RHETA GRIMSLEY JOHNSON: Home’s definition emerges from the words in one’s heart

By Rheta Grimsley Johnson

FISHTRAP HOLLOW – I did some figuring on the back of an envelope and discovered that 200 days of 2011 were spent away from this old hollow. Maybe that’s why today it seems almost like an exotic getaway instead of what it actually is: an ordinary home.
Outside the window, recent rains have left sand contrails zigzagging the pasture. I see flotsam from the branch that runs beside the house and at times jumps its banks. If it were warmer, I’d open all the doors and listen to the branch babble and brag about all the water it has carried while I’ve been away.
Instead, I lay a fire in the stove, the better to get through February.
My dogs Boo and Hank are curled up in discount-store beds on the floor beside my desk. They, too, miss home when we’re gone.
Here they simply nudge me with their wooly heads when the urge to go outside hits. If they see or sense a squirrel, they can give chase.
In the Colorado city where we’ve been for several months, the dogs must wear harnesses and leashes to go outside. City squirrels mock and tease them.
Here they enjoy a regular retinue of dogs who visit and chase about the woods for recreation. In the city, dog-park etiquette eludes my two, too old to learn new tricks. They lunge and growl at every strange dog we meet, provoking my stern rebuke.
It is for a dog, I imagine, humiliating.
When your heart settles on a place, it’s hard to convince it that anywhere else can be home. No matter that elsewhere you make friends, have a nicer house, frequent amazing restaurants and have access to a variety of breads and other groceries the stalwart Piggly Wiggly does not offer.
It doesn’t even matter that the spectacular Rocky Mountains are outside your window, iced with snow and positioned against a Windex-blue sky.
You eventually miss the humbler north Mississippi hills, worn to speed-bump size by thousands of years of nature’s abuse. You miss the sycamores with their loincloth leaves and the skinny dogwoods with their spring surprise.
Most of all you miss the people, the slow-talking, slothfully rhythmic folk who speak on the sidewalk whether they know you or not. You miss the long and circuitous stories that pass for answers to questions that could be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.”
You miss what you have always known.
It’s aggravating, almost. Last month I left the land of no litter and dramatic vistas and cold that doesn’t feel cold to come home to tornado threats and the damp chill that permeates a Southern spring. I left a neighborhood with art galleries and animal control and a French bakery where the baguettes are fresh each morning to return to the thundering peace of this place.
I was homesick for, well, home.
Syndicated columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson lives near Iuka. Contact her at Iuka, MS 38852. To find out more about Rheta Grimsley Johnson and her books, visit www.rhetagrimsleyjohnsonbooks.com.