Some friends here in Tennessee, where I currently live, took a trip to my hometown in Washington State. Before their departure, they kindly asked if there was anything they could bring back for me. I chuckled and facetiously answered, “Sure . . . the Pacific Ocean, if your luggage can manage.”
I miss Washington State. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve appreciated living in other places in the world, each spectacular and beautiful in their own right. Nevertheless, you’ve heard the saying, “Home is where the heart is. . . .”? Well, my family is there, most of my close friends with whom I grew up are there, my heart is there, and therefore the Pacific Northwest is and will probably always be home (in the earthly sense) . . . despite the fact that I’ve lived elsewhere for over ten years.
Southern friends joke with me about retaining such fondness for the “Left Coast,” or the arty, somewhat isolationist leaning views that are indicative of the culture. But, hey!—I have family members who happen to hold political offices in the name of conservatism, so it all balances out.
My homesickness is magnified by the fact that I frequently dream of Washington, especially over the past couple of years. While various pristine images fill my night visions, it’s the dark, frigid, blue-black waters that consume my sleep the most. That accompanied with ferryboats, rocky beaches, sisters laughing hysterically, windbreakers guarding against the drizzle and chill of the salty sea breeze, and that warm, fuzzy feeling of familiarity and the sense of belonging. This is where I grew up . . . .
Nostalgia is a bittersweet thing. I value where I’m at, the good people here, and the mode of life. It’s gorgeous. Warm a lot. And as a Christian, I downright appreciate the sense of religious freedom that overflows in this, the Bible Belt. I treasure it enough that I made my debut novel’s protagonist proudly hail from Sweetwater, Tennessee. This local environment also inspired my published short story.
Having said that, still, nothing will beat home. In addition, I miss the colorful Northwest cuisine where seafood is fresh, vegetables prepared al dente, and salads are unmistakable and unique, amid an assortment of other superfluous items which strike my fancy. Such as coffee—strong—the way it’s supposed to be; enough to cut through fog that rolls in off the bay. Although it’s well-known, Tennesseans have their tea down to perfection, no questions there. Sweet!
When my Tennessean friends returned from their trip to Washington State, they surprised me with three ounces of the Pacific. Having gone out on a typical cold and rainy day, they purchased a blue bottle, jogged down to the beach, and filled as much as they could in adherence with the current flight regulations. So yes, they slipped a bit of the ocean into their luggage! Deeply touched by their gesture, my eyes pooled when they gave it to me. Crazy about the gift, I untwisted the cap, took a whiff, and even dipped a finger into the liquid just to get the tang of salt and seaweed on my tongue. I’m not a sailor, but “Arrrggghhh!” just the same (I can’t say that without squinting an eye, especially one that’s tear infused).