When I left New England in 2003 I shook the dust off my feet. I hated it. The beauty and history were lost in bitterness and hurt. I had spent seven years in culture shock feeling like I would never fit in and, like a school girl, trying to convince myself I didn’t care. I did not like Massachusetts and she did not like me. The phrase that I used internally to describe my world was straight out of the Narnia series: “Always winter, never Christmas“.
I arrived in Phoenix in 122 degree heat in the middle of July. As I stepped outside of the airport, met by the desert heat, palm trees and Bougainvillea, I breathed a sigh of freedom. I no longer had to try anymore. My chains were gone and I could embrace the start of a new life.
In 2007 when a compelling job opportunity was offered to my husband, although I knew it was right, I was terrified to return. It was winter and Cliff, who had gone on before me, had already warned me of two snowstorms bringing a record-breaking amount of snow. Trading a pool and cathedral ceilings for a condo surrounded by snow felt impossible. Packing up belongings and returning to the East coast even more so.
This weekend I contemplated the wonder of restoration and return. I realized that I am astonished by its strength and persistence. I am seeing Massachusetts with healed vision and restored eyesight. On the North shore of Boston we are in awe of the Rocky Atlantic coast and take advantage of the beauty on weekends with long beach walks. We’ve discovered new beaches and new trails, collected driftwood for art, and grilled burgers on an old grill donated by our friends.
Back in Cambridge we marvel at the history of the city that is Boston, where Betsy Ross and Paul Revere imitators lead groups of tourists daily, filling in the gaps of history with real and apocryphal stories. The banks of the Charles River have become our evening walk as we dodge other foot and bicycle traffic on the path. A week ago we enjoyed a meal with a couple that we hadn’t seen in eight years. It never would have happened had we been the same people we were eight years ago, had we not realized the power of restoration.
Massachusetts no longer feels like the basement in the mansion of the world. Instead it’s a room full of interesting objects to be enjoyed and used before we wander on to the next room.
To be sure restoration and return does not mean I love everything. There is still the traffic, best described with the joke: “Why do people in Massachusetts not use their turn signals? Because it’s none of your business where they’re going!” There is often a mean-spirited intolerance of difference and a whole lot of what could be termed “red neck” liberals. But the restorative process is more about changing me than changing the area.
Three and half years ago I had no idea what restoration and return would look like. There were moments of such fear I was physically affected. Like the arm of the starfish, the miracle of God’s restorative process has once again shown itself to be completely reliable, and as my sister-in-law Tami would say, “utterly unpredictable”.