This Town

“It will never be this good again” is a lie we should stop telling ourselves. That’s what Todd Henry says in this article, whose content I first heard on his Accidental Creative podcast.

I’ve been facing down that particular lie with extra determination over the past year, as my husband Nathan and I made plans to move out of our Minnesota prairie hometown, across the country to the foothills of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.

Nathan was born and raised in our hometown. I was born there, moved away at age nine months, moved back at age ten years, moved away at age twenty-two, moved back with my husband and children at age thirty. I joked that this town was like a bad penny that just kept turning up in my life. During the twelve years I spent growing up in this town, like many of my peers I dreamed of leaving it, not always appreciating the goodness and beauty all around me.

I married Nathan and then moved to the big city up the road, got a job, bought a house, birthed a child, conceived another – and then began to dream of moving back to the prairie town, where my parents lived, where I could walk the same park trails I walked as a teenager with my dog, eat at the hometown restaurants I knew so well, relive childhood memories and make new ones with my own children.

And that’s what we did – for seven storybook-perfect years. While I have always enjoyed traveling and even moving (in those years between nine months and ten years old, I moved with my family through four states and about a dozen homes, always excited to pack up and drive to the next place), now that we had two young children and all of their grandparents right in the same town, now that we had a (mortgage-free, rent-free) house and even perfectly scheduled part-time jobs so that neither of us took on the full load of domestic work or a full-time day job – it became difficult to see “it will never be this good again” as a lie. It felt like the inarguable truth.

We had always enjoyed visiting the mountains. Nathan took at least one trip to Colorado every year to do some adventuring. But whenever we had discussed possibly moving there, the call of the mountains was never quite strong enough to overcome the comfort and security of the prairie town.

Until last summer, when our little family was all there together, and for the first time, together, we felt the mountains moving us.

Our prairie town has no glaring deficiencies. Most people will tell you “it’s a great place to raise kids.” It is filled with beautiful parks and a sparkling river, kind people, small-town charm. It is the quintessential Shire, a happy idyllic space of farm fields, fragrant woods, and chatty neighbors. For seven years, our family lived well there, and many families have lived well for generations in this same town.

This song and account of my family’s move is not really about towns and mountains, you know. It’s about knowing when it’s time to step out, time to leave that comfortable thing you’ve always known for that strange and beautiful adventure that is undeniably calling to you. It’s about recognizing when your perfect situation is beginning to choke the life out of you, to smother you with security and lull you to complacency with its comforts.

It’s about embracing the unknown and holding out hope that unprecedented goodness lies ahead, not in the mountains or the prairie town or the shining city to which you are venturing, but in the journey itself.

Speaking of the Shire, I’ll call on J.R.R. Tolkien to close out this post. Here are three fitting quotes from The Fellowship of the Ring.

“The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say”

“Not all those who wander are lost.”

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”