To Love A Place


Love makes you see a place differently…

…just as you hold differently an object that belongs to someone you love. If you know one landscape well, you will look at all other landscapes differently. And if you learn to love one place, sometimes you can also learn to love another.” 
― Anne Michaels

sweet lily

Three years ago this summer my family packed up our modest hill-farm in NH and piled everything we owned into the largest moving van Budget would let us drive ourselves.  It took us 18 hours, down the New Jersey Turnpike, navigating through Washington, DC, but we made it–a little worse for the wear, but here.  We were that familiar mix of nervous and excited and exhausted that accompanies a major life change.  When we had purchased our farm several years earlier, my husband and I never could have predicted that we would land on a hot sidewalk in Durham towing the detritus of our life, and our reluctant daughter. But God’s call can be funny like that.

You see, we were happy in NH, but something there started to unfold that neither my husband nor I could have predicted: we found a church that fit us, in which we could use our gifts. Particularly, one in which my husband could use his gifts.  And it became clear that there was more for him to do.  More, that would lead us far from our hillside to that hot Durham sidewalk, looking up at a mustard yellow bungalow that we were to make a home in for the duration of his Divinity School studies.

We came because we were called.  That much was clear.  We would do what we set out to do–Dave would get his degree–and then we would go home again.  We were sad to leave our home and family, but hopeful that God would make a way for us in our new resting place.  What we were not expecting was to find Home here, to fall in love with our new place.

bull cityBut fall in love we did.  With this gritty city that is remaking itself in an abundance of delicious food, funky music, and great baseball. With the trails along the Eno River, only a short drive from our Durham neighborhood.  With the Farmer’s Market and its abundance of produce all year long.  With the mountains and beaches that can be reached in a few hours.  With our neighbors, coworkers and classmates that we formed friendships with. Most of all, with our little church community that drew near to us in what would prove to be a difficult season.

enoThe three years have flown by in a flurry of late nights writing papers, swims in the Eno, stimulating lectures, breakfasts at Monuts, jobs to find, multiplication tables to learn, walks in Duke Gardens, a family crisis to navigate, play-dates to have, deaths to grieve, hymns to sing, births to celebrate, chickens to raise, flowers to arrange…

And suddenly, it is time to go.  My husband has accepted a call to pastor a church in Pennsylvania. The largest truck that Budget will let us drive ourselves will pull away from the mustard yellow bungalow next Saturday, with all our earthly belongings packed inside. I was nervous to come.  I am so sad to go.  The friendships that have been woven, the familiar paths we have worn through this city, all the places to love…  We will miss these and so much more.

Following God’s path can take unexpected twists and turns, as any Methodist pastor knows all too well.  There are seasons of abundance and there are seasons of need. Sometimes those seasons overlap and collide in unexpected ways.  And sometimes we are given the grace to love a place in a way that changes us. When that happens, it can be so, so hard to take the next step, but when we have been changed by love, we can be assured that our hearts will be all the more opened to what lies ahead. Because, “if you learn to love one place, sometimes you can also learn to love another.”

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–Caren Swanson

Images by the author.  Lower image by Urban South Photo, used with permission.

Also by Caren Swanson: The Healing Power of Nostalgia

5 thoughts on “To Love A Place

  1. What a beautiful post, Caren. I can feel the power of place in your words. Home is where the heart is, and your family is clearly letting grace and truth guide you. Good luck and thank you for sharing. -Sandy C

  2. Hi Caren,
    I can’t remember if we have met before, but your parents were house parents for my sister when she lived in Andover and went to proctor. Your parents have always felt like family to us and were instrumental in the weekend that my now husband and I got together :-). Anyways, we are extremely familiar with God calling us to and from places we love. We were called to south central PA three years ago, Harrisburg area. I have grown to love it very much here and can’t imagine living anywhere else. We have many friends from Pittsburgh that love it there. I hear it’s a really beautiful and wonderful place. If you need a place to crash on your drive, please feel free to stay with us. We have started a farm and would be happy to load you up with fresh produce for your new life too. Blessings, Katherine Clymer

  3. For Caren and Dave and Clara,
    What a lovely post! I feel through your words the adventure of your life so well. I am praying that your family will be blessed in your new PA. home as you have been in NH and NC! The Lord bless you and keep you as you continue to follow Him in your life!
    Lots of love!
    Liza Sullivan

  4. Thanks, Caren– this was so well written, so clear and evocative of the joys and sorrows of loving a place, and yet discerning a call. Thanks for offering this gift, telling this part of your journey.

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