I come from Levi’s with worn knees, blown belt loops and frayed hems. Where I come from we all wear the same jeans, pull on the same boots and tuck our chins into the same wool collar when the wind picks up and snow spits sideways.
I come from scraped plastic lunch coolers and dented Stanley thermoses coated in dust from the job site, calloused hands and tape measures hung on one of the remaining belt loops. I come from a jackknife in the pocket and a pair of worn leather work gloves, either for weeding or building or any other job that comes up, because, well, there’s always work to do. I come from seed catalogs, dirt under the fingernails and venison stew.
I come from the pop when the maul splits the log, the yelp of a bird dog in the forest .
I come from bulldozers, excavators, pole barns, hammers, saws, and a bushel of raspberries. I come from pick up trucks, road beers, and freshly oiled shotgun barrels.
I come from knitting needles, the whine of a sewing machine and the hiss of a pressure cooker as each canning jar is lowered into the drink. I come from quilt squares, used cars, and shovels breaking ground.
I come from wild game in the deep freezer, blue Ball jars, clotheslines and miles of farmland.
I come from lakes and old boats and yellow rain jackets my grandmother calls foul weather gear. I come from whitecaps, buoys and fog. I come from work boots, rubber boots, and a pair of nice shoes if we ever go to church. We don’t.
We go skiing instead.
I come from a five dollar allowance on Fridays and a chore list that is pages in length. I come from dog licks, ten speed bikes, and hand me downs.
Where I come from, home is two places: an island in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and a string of houses in the small towns on the Lake Michigan side of the northern Lower Peninsula. Places I’ve lived when my parents were married and places I’ve lived when they were divorced. With all of those places, the woods were close by with their cover of maple leaves and the lake was just beyond reach.
Where I come from and where I live are two phrases I’m clumsy with. I call Montana home. I call Michigan home. I live in Montana. I was born and raised in Michigan.
Sometimes, I don’t know which place to call home. Home is where the heart is, or at least, that’s what my mother has cross-stitched into fabric and hung on the wall. Where is my heart? Where is my home?
I feel at home in Montana and I made damn sure I’d make it my home, no matter how broken of a heart or how broke on cash. I thought pining for home a thousand miles away, a small town near a big lake, made me a sap. A wuss.
Where I come from independence, self-reliance and strength were also included on that chore list if you inspected close enough.
Can a heart be in two places? I used to think not. I used to think you could only give yourself over to one place. To bury in, dig into the bedrock with bare hands, never mind the cuts, never mind the boulders. All things can be moved, can’t they? You just have to be strong enough, right?
My heart is here, in Montana, where this morning the sun burns red with smoke from wildfires. My heart is here when I gaze up to look at the mountains wondering if the rock will forever hold. My heart is here when I slide through the water, slicing through rapids with a paddle.
And yet. My heart is also in a place surrounded by water, although the amount of water is certainly less so than it used to be. I’m living in a place where the glaciers are less so than they used to be. You can’t deny change whether you live near grizzly bears or Great Lakes.
Where I live now, which is also home, the Levis are worn out, and the knife still rests in the pocket. The chin is still scoured red from the wind and cold. The logs still need to be split and the busyness of work, of labor, of man and machinery still sounds.