It's supposed to be 100 degrees in south Texas today. I melted into my couch just a little bit as I typed that sentence. My $155 electric bill from last month is already laughing at the new power bill that will arrive in my mailbox in a few weeks. I might have to start selling off extra body parts to pay for my air conditioning. Anyone need some fat to make soap? A kidney? In the meantime, it's 74 degrees and raining gently in western Washington. Their biggest worry is some million-dollar mansion sliding down a saturated hillside. But I guess it's all about perspective.
We went to a barbeque last week and sat outside around the fire pit with friends from work and their family. It was in the 90's but - yes - we sat around a fire. Someone said something about this being God's country and I politely nodded in agreement...but on the inside I was not convinced. What, exactly, makes a place God's country?
I love to read the newspapers of places where I've lived. I feel like I'm keeping up on people and events that I cared about...until too much time has passed. I was just reading the newspaper for Port Townsend, Washington. I barely feel a connection to PT anymore. When I read the captions below the pictures, I look for surnames that I recognize and then wonder if these are the children of people I went to high school with decades ago. At one point, I might have called that place God's country, but now it feels like I'm looking into a stranger's home through their kitchen window. I don't know anyone and I don't recognize the faces in the room. If I lived there, what would I be doing for a living? Who would I be married to? Where would I live? At one point in time, I wanted to stay there, but once I left to go to college there never seemed to be a way to go back. Life moved on like a swift river.
My family and I have moved around quite a bit over the last 20 years. The two places we lived the longest are in Washington and Oregon; yet they are places we can't go back to because of the lack of employment. One of the things this recession has done - along with the rise of the $10 an hour job and fall of unionized manufacturing and family wage jobs - is create a class of rootless people. I used to think our roots were in the Pacific Northwest, but no longer. Along with countless others, we have moved for the jobs. Texas is one place where there are a lot of jobs, but not an over-abundance of high paying jobs. It takes a lot of work to find a good job. I have no problem with that, so here we are in Texas - the antithesis of the PNW tree hugging hippies - where good Republicans have hunkered down and are determined to keep fighting the good fight. Is this God's country? Maybe it depends on what you think God is saying...
So, as we were sitting around the fire at the barbeque, eating steak and beans, throwing scraps to the lurking dogs and getting to know each other, I looked at the fields surrounding the house. The live oak trees were magnificent, the grass was tall from all the rain and a breeze kept the flies away. Maybe this is all we need. I used to love the lack of roots for my family, thinking that our life together was an adventure; and it has been an adventure.
But eventually, we all run out of road, slow down and have to settle wherever that road has taken us. Never in a million years would I have guessed south Texas. No ocean beaches (don't get me started on the Gulf), no 120-foot fir trees, no mountains with snow on them all summer, and just two seasons: Hot and cool.
What we do have are paychecks, a place to live, an abundance of schools and an abundance of jobs for our children. Perhaps it's dependability, that what we need is going to be here for as long as we want it, that makes a place God's country. Owning 60 acres, planning out where the cattle will graze, building a fire pit at the edge of the lawn for barbeques, and watching the sun rise, pass over and set on your own land is enough to make someone feel like this is a place unlike any other.