I am home today after 11 days journeying through my past. But today, I landed: Home. Really--Home. It sunk in with a capital "H" like nothing has for a long long time. Nashville. How did that happen that this southern place that in 2007 I attempted a move toward, which gave me hives, which freaked me out, which made me call my friend Dave Crossland crying "I can't do this..." and now, 3 years later, it has sunk into my bones and blood like I've been called here. Is it simply a land swollen by water and loss that my heart aches for? Is it the people who I have followed by emails and Facebook and Twitter for the last week, wishing I was on the ground, my feet muddy, part of the community I crave? Or is it just this rightness of soil and music and friends and smallness and love and a sense of the whole of it all?
The rains fell while I was talking to one of my best friends, stuck late in a job, the rain cracking at the windowpane a few floors up. "Its getting bad here," they said to me, a slight tremor I sensed from a history of tornado losses. I didn't think much of it as I slept. But then I woke to voicemails and texts. I was in Massachussetts, on dry land, in sunny skies, a day ahead of coffee and mountain biking and leisure before a late show. I could tell from the urgency of the messages something was wrong. Very wrong. Streets were impassable. Flash flooding. People asking if my beloved dog, June, was ok. Was my house ok? Was I ok? Friends texting: new friends. Friends I'd recently met who were texting me like I was part of the immediate family--their hands reaching across the fiber optics, grasping mine, pulling me into the Community. I felt a part of something so far away. I turned CNN on to find nothing. I could find very little about my town, my home, my friends. All of a sudden, this new place to me, this foreign land of southern food and the music of my father's people and 'bless your heart friendliness" became very very dear to me and I needed to hear about its safety. And there was radio silence. Thank goodness for Facebook. Seriously. That is where I got my news--from the minute by minute postings of friends and neighbors. Thank god for my East Nashville list-serv that a week ago annoyed me with its postings of garage sales and questions about spiders, that was now giving blow-by-blows about floodings in Inglewood, people needing shelter and clothing, where to sign up to help with the volunteering. From far far away, I fell deeply, madly, truly in love with Nashville. I finally watched the news catch on, sort-of. I was in New York City and bought a $2.00 NY Times to see the only mention of the flood was on page A-17 at the bottom, a brief 3 paragraphs, as if 11 deaths in one day in a random flash flood weren't worthy. As if someone's guitar collection, the history of the music we cherish, wasn't worthy. As if Opryland under water wasn't an historic occasion. I wondered if that were the Hollywood sign felled by an earthquake, would it be buried on page 17? I felt even more loyal to my new town.
The days went by and the nation caught on, but as I played shows, and brought out an old song, newly urgent, "After The Flood", and heard post-show comments like "So, I hear Nashville got some water damage..." I was disheartened. I just wanted to go home. To hug the town. To put my northern feet deep in the mud of the Cumberland and root myself right here on the East Side of the South. To help clear Shelby Bottoms, my beloved park. To get out to the areas where people lost everything--homes, fathers, soil, cars, daughters, dogs, horses.
So I am home now and the waters have receded and I thought I'd see something flying in over this land. I came home and the town is different now and I missed the change. Tomorrow I'll get in the mud. I remember walking to another river on a blue Tuesday 9 years ago where smoke wafted from 2 towers and I watched with a friend and a handful of other observers. That time: I watched buildings turn to dust and although I saw something I never thought I'd see, I still wonder if I saw it for real or I remember it from television. I also remember how quickly strangers became comrades and a town without pity became a town full of family. I remember wandering around the photos tacked to a makeshift board on 14th Street with a candle, just a few days later, in awed silence, feeling very close to everyone who's eyes I caught with mine.
I have moved so much that its hard for me to call anyplace home. I was born in Baltimore. Left when I was 8. Went to Minnesota for 5 years. Then Pennsylvania for 6 years. Then Massachussets for 5 years. Then New York City and Brooklyn and New Jersey for 18. I landed here, in Nashville, in October. On a whim. A well-educated whim. A whim brought on by faith and hope and love.
This town has dried out, mostly, and it will survive and thrive, but the last time I felt so proud to say "This is my home" was about 9 years ago. A long time coming...