When we bought this little farmhouse in Tuscany, I never thought of it as “home.”
Home has been California since I was born. When I moved to New York and then Texas with my parents, I longed to “go home.” I saved up babysitting money to go back for the summer I was 14. I applied to colleges only in California (and one safety school in New York which — good, bad, whatever — gave me scholarship money and work/study to make it the most affordable option).
My parents moved back to California in my senior year. My fiance was in New York finishing school, but I “came home” to care for my mother who was dying. I finished school, married my fiance, and went back to New York. It was never “home.”
After the divorce, I returned. As soon as I crossed the Golden Gate, I felt alive again. Every time I drove through the Waldo Tunnel (the one that has rainbows painted on it and is now the Robin Williams Tunnel), it felt like a homecoming. Whether the hills were emerald or ochre or burnt sienna, I smiled and relished the season.
I bought a house in Santa Rosa and married my new husband in the backyard of our home. We opened a business and became part of the community. We experienced giddy happiness and great tragedy, but we did it together and with friends. We felt safe. And loved.
Fifteen years later, we moved to some of those beautiful hills — a ranch in west Sonoma County. It is interesting that many of our neighbors there called their places Home Ranch. It was where their great greats had settled and grew along with their crops and animals, families . Offspring might have moved next door or down the road, but there was always Home Ranch.
Ours was called Canvas Ranch. (If you’d like to read more about how all this went down, here is a link to an article in Fortune magazine, cover story for Retire to the Job You Love.) On the website I created, I said the following about this new “home”:
The undulating hills, the soft sky, the zillions of stars to look at, even the fog make this a landscape that slows you down. Early in the morning, when the chickens are out looking for their first meal near the compost bin, and the lambs are chasing each other around the back field, and the cashmere goats are stretching to catch the first rays of sun, that’s my favorite time to head into the garden. Everything is so new. And there is so much to discover. More beans sprouting. New buds on the tomato vines. Flowers I forgot I planted opening to the day.
Yes, this describes home to me. We filled the rolling hills of our home with sheep and goats and chickens and vegetables and orchards and ancient grains and art.
And another 15 years later, we said goodbye. It was not a sad goodbye as everything we loved is now in someone else’s hands and doing just fine. It was not sad because we were able to turn one home into two, one in Sonoma County and one in Tuscany. It was not sad at all because a few weeks ago, as we were sitting under our huge fig tree, eating proscuitto and pecorino and drinking fine Italian wine, we looked at each other and said, “It’s so good to be back home again.”
There is a peace here, as there is in Sonoma County. Beauty is everywhere, in the blossoming flowers, ripening tomatoes, bursting chestnuts. And in the faces of the children and the old people and the vendor at the fruit stand. Friends are here, as they are at our other home. It rains, the sun shines, the wind blows, and all the while we watch things grow and die and grow again.
And we know how very lucky we are to be back home again, and again. We have each other.