“Home,” May 16, 2023

NOTE: This column was written in 2018.

A lifetime ago, I grew up in these old blue mountains on the border between the Carolinas. After college, I moved to California of All Places (that’s what my mother called it) to raise a family and live the life of my dreams.

I’ve often come “home” for visits. Too often, for funerals. But this trip, if partly for work, was mostly for pleasure.

It began with a speaking engagement in Winston Salem, where my column has been carried for years. People I’d never met asked to see photos of my grandkids. It felt (I say with a wink) like a family reunion … without the fistfights.

After the talk, a few autographs, and a whole lot of hugs, I drove 150 miles south to a cabin on a lake in Landrum, S.C., the town where I grew up. My sister wanted me to stay at her house but I said I had to work. When I stay with her, not much work gets done.

For the past four days, I’ve spent a little time working and a lot of time with family and friends. And with beavers and ducks, geese and squirrels, and with so many reflections that tap dance on the surface of the lake and in the back corners of my mind.

My dad loved to fish. He wanted me to love it, too. I never did. But I learned to love the peace that’s found sitting beside still water.

Some of us, maybe all, feel a physical connection to nature –especially to the land where we grew up — that is as real and as binding as anything we’ll ever feel for flesh and blood.

That doesn’t mean we like mountains more than people. It just means that, to feel whole, we need to spend time with both.

I wanted time with family and friends. But I also wanted time alone with these mountains, with red dirt and still water and a dazzling Carolina moon. Lucky for me, I did all of those things and more.

The day after I arrived, my sister and I drove to Spartanburg to pick up our brother and go to dinner at his favorite restaurant. Joe is blind, but he knows the menu at Wade’s by heart.

“I’ll have meatloaf, mac ‘n’ cheese, macaroni salad and cole slaw,” he told the server, “and sweet iced tea, please.”

When the food came, Joe said grace. “Heavenly Father, thank you that I can be with both of my sisters today. Bless this food to our bodies and us to your service. In Jesus name, amen.”

We ate and talked and told stories, old and new. Then we took Joe to his apartment and drove back to my sister’s place to spend the evening with her son, his wife and their children: Kiowa, who trains horses for a living, and Cree, a high school senior, showed me videos of their rodeo competitions and talked about their love for riding and roping and, on occasion, getting thrown to the ground.

Yesterday, with a chill in the air, I stayed in the cabin most of the day, watching shadows of clouds and flocks of geese, while gusts of wind ruffled the surface of the lake. That evening my sister and I had dinner with some friends we’ve known forever and reminisced about others who are no longer with us. After dinner, back at the lake, I bundled up in a blanket and sat alone on the dock in the dark, counting stars on the water and blessings in my life.

And then, this morning, around 4 a.m., I awoke in bed to thunder and lightning and an old familiar sound: Rain falling on a tin roof.

Have you ever heard that sound? I hope so. I drifted back to sleep for a while, dreaming dreams I can’t recall. Finally, I got up to make coffee and watch the mist rise off the lake. It’s been raining all day. I’ve been writing. Writing and rain make good company.

Tonight I’ll have one last supper with my sister. We’ll say a long, hard goodbye. Tomorrow, Lord willing, I’ll go back to my other home, to my husband, children, grandchildren and friends, to the life and the land I love on the coast of California of All Places.

But I will take with me the precious gift of time that I have spent here with family and friends, with a good lake for fishing (even if I don’t fish) cradled in the arms of these old blue mountains.

Home isn’t a person or place that you visit and then leave behind. It’s a feeling that you carry with you forever in your heart.


  1. I feel this with my brother who moved to California of All Places after graduating college back in 1980 and now has transplanted to North Carolina of all Places. When he comes back here, it feels like he’s never left Indiana….until it’s time to leave. It truly is possible to stay close when you’re many miles hapart while coming home feels good too.

  2. Katie Musgrave says

    Beautiful word picture of love. Keep writing my friend. ❤️

  3. CHope Hall says

    Your memories are so inspiring & bring back so memories of the early years of our marriage. We’ve been married 62+ years now & since retirement we are even happier. We watched as a swimming pool was filled in today & is now history. Kids enjoyed it for years. It will take some time to get accustomed to seeing the bare spot. Echos of laughter live on. We are truly blessed & know it. Take care & God Bless!!

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