Leaving Home and the Geographies of our Days

Every time we leave, I always hope for a clean break, where you wince but then rip off the band-aid and you’re okay. Where the pain is quick but then fades, and soon, you’re just left with a scab. Or I hope that if the pain does remain, it’s still beautiful in its own right, like the nice, neat little line on the x-ray of my son’s arm when he played a bit too rough.

But leaving is never clean, it’s always messy with pieces of you splintered off in the process. We hope we can wipe over the pain and hurt from leaving with a Clorox wipe and call it good. Or we stay so excited about the vision of the “next thing” that we band-aid over the emotional tugging, where pieces of you are strung around the world.

Leaving always requires a big intake of breath before the words leave your lips: “We’re moving.” So again, much sooner than I thought, I find that familiar catching-in-my-throat breath because: we’re leaving the longest place we’ve ever lived since we’ve been married.

Leaving is never clean, it’s always messy.

And it hurts.

Home has crept up on us here. I never expected to fall in love with Salt Lake City. I expected hard work and feeling a bit like a stranger in a strange land. I didn’t expect Utah to feel like home. But it is. It started when I landed in the middle of a park, friendless and overwhelmed with a newborn and a toddler, and noticed the fun mom playing with her kids. No one had come up to talk to me before her because I didn’t look the part of the Mormon mom with my tank top and nose ring. I was drowning in the mundane, and she lifted me out with her joy.

Friends have gathered around me. Young friends from our college ministry, mom friends from my neighborhood, older friends, book club friends. And through the dailiness of our day—the to-ing and fro-ing from school, the biking around the neighborhood, the grocery shopping, the library storytimes, the blessedness of nights out and a drink with friends—we have created defining rhythms with one another. Rhythms and routes, inextricably linked. Rhythms where sometimes we are the melody and a friend harmonizes along with us; other times, we pick out notes together to sound out grief or panic or fear. This music of home is created through the geographies of our days.

And so, almost imperceptibly, these people, this place, has become my heart home.

I drive down the freeway and my jaw still drops as I’m surrounded by snow-capped mountains that glisten in the sunshine. Mountains that cannot help but call me to experience glory throughout the year.

Mountains that are so much other. We’ve hiked the trails and picked the wildflowers. We’ve been covered in its dust and dirt and with its snow in the winter. We’ve whooped and hollered with strangers as we all experienced the elation of a fresh powder day. We’ve hiked the same trails through the year and noticed the coming glory of spring that shouts through the small act of budding crocuses that: yes! all things will be made new.

I am struck at how hard this leaving is as I grow older.

After more than a decade of marriage and moving, uprooting seven times and adding four children, the idea of home grows layered. It has become much more muddled—both the idea of home and leaving the places and people who have become wedded to our story. We want to think that home is static. That it’s that place where I came from; or, that place where I grew up; or that place from which my ancestors originated; or the place I’ve lived the longest. But it’s all home.

What I cling to when I start missing the people and the place before I’ve even left is this: In the wider story of grace, the next place we move will also become home, bit by bit.  The pieces I’ve left of me here in Salt Lake City will perhaps fester a bit in hard moments as I learn again to make new friends, invest in our community, and figure out what it means to live where we grew up, but this time as adults with our own family.

But that’s okay. It’s part of home-making. This life was never meant to be a clean break anyway.

Ashley Hales

14 thoughts on “Leaving Home and the Geographies of our Days

  1. This is just beautiful, Ashley! Thanks for sharing this and speaking words I’ve felt before and completely understand but never could have formed!

  2. “…missing the people and the place before I’ve even left.” Yes. I also never expected this place to have such a hold on my heart. Leaving is scary and messy, and acknowledging that is important. Thank you for writing it so well!

  3. oh friend! My husband is in the AF and I know this leaving so so well. I am so sorry. This was a beautiful piece, thank you for sharing it!

    • Thank you for your kind words. Leaving is just plain hard. It’s a hard balance to both look forward to the next thing while mourning the past and living in the now.

  4. This piece is absolutely beautiful, Ashley. You’ve described the thoughts and emotions so clearly. I wish I couldn’t relate, but I’ve been there too. You’ll find your place and home will find you.

  5. This is so beautiful! As a military wife, I can really resonate with a little bit of my heart being in each place we go. Well said!

  6. Thanks, Ashley. It’s nice to have a ‘moving friend’ out there! I’ve had to move way too many times, most recently this past October. I’ve found Jesus to be so much more than I knew!

    • That’s so encouraging — to know Jesus has met you in all of the movings and uprootings. It’s a hard transition but I’m glad you’ve found the sweetness in it too.

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