Nails in the Wall

I was on the phone with a friend of mine. She quipped, “You and I—we’ve just got a nomadic spirituality.”

Her tone was half-joking and not necessarily complimentary. Nonetheless, something in me latched onto it.

We joked about our nomadic ways for years. Because giving a gift to a nomad is hard, I made her a playlist of songs about wandering one year. There are a lot of options to pick from.

At the time, I was moving a lot, living wherever was most convenient for the ministry that I was doing.  Because the charitable work was connected to many properties, I had many options. I became the master of the power move—the quick pack without boxes, the shift to the adjacent neighborhood, as few trips as possible.

A friend needed a place to recuperate after serious illness. I moved out.

A donor made a house available. I moved in.

A friend’s husband was writing his dissertation and their family was on a serious budget. I moved out.

The home for homeless mothers was understaffed. I moved in.

And so on.

The moves were a form of loving. If it made more sense for someone else to be living where I was living, I would move. If I was needed somewhere, I would move. If a good opponail-sticking-out-of-wallrtunity opened up, I would move.

Settling in meant hanging pictures.  Forget buying furniture, putting a nail in the wall evoked a sense of stability.

During this season, space and place weren’t interchangeable. My “place” was the community of service that I was a part of. I belonged there. I was rooted in the work.  In all its beauty (and rough edges!), it reflected a big part of me. “Space” was where I happen to live at the moment.

But, something shifted.

Early this summer, I pulled up the dirt driveway of my childhood home with my car full of belongings.  I made the decision to return home and live with my parents, at least for a season.

As I went to fill the closets of my bedroom, I found box after box of childhood trinkets, school memories, and college mementos.

Little yellow baby shoes with daisies. My class photos from elementary school. My sequined costumes from dance classes. An enormous quantity of t-shirts. A binder of research from my college capstone.

Sorting through it all had a weightiness that was hard to bear.

But it made it evident. Here space and place intersect.

Here my hands were pressed into concrete as it hardened. The image remains. Here I notice that the roadrunner population seems higher than normal. I have watched the trees grow; I can see the shift in my own body, aware that I can no longer work as hard as I once could. Here pets are buried in the yard and the turtles return to the porch each season to be fed a piece of fruit.

I’ve been helping my parents with some building projects.  From their imagination and sweat, they are calling into being a place that can welcome others, a place of celebration.  We have different approaches toward meeting the goal.  We’ve bickered and hurt each other feelings as we try to work together.

Maybe I bring city ways to getting things done—I want to work a timeline, not waste people’s time, and stay a step or two ahead.  It’s not clear if I am helpful or annoying.  Maybe both.

Nonetheless, I’ve arranged all the furniture upstairs to suit my sense of form and function. I recently bought a bookshelf and I’ve been eyeing the sales on papasan chairs.

My artwork, however, is still piled up on the table, waiting to be hung.

It’s just so hard to put a nail in the wall.

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3 Thoughts.

  1. Mary, this story is great! I wish you joy as you help your parents create a new space and as you make your individual space your own.

  2. Well told story. Is there a thrift store in the area? They may have cheap papasan chairs. And unless it’s a compromise you’re trying hard not to make, you might try those adhesive hooks they have now that you can hang pictures on. They work pretty well, and when you need to take it down, ZIP. It’s like it was never there.

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