The invisible crop

Jeff, Matt and Drew at a friend's farm in Dayton, Ohio, Jeff's first Air Force assignment. Late summer, 1986

Jeff, Matt and Drew at a friend’s farm in Dayton, Ohio,
our first Air Force assignment. Late summer, 1986

“…when you give yourself to places, they give you yourself back; the more one comes to know them, the more one seeds them with the invisible crop of memories and associations that will be waiting for when you come back, while new places offer up new thoughts, new possibilities. Exploring the world is one the best ways of exploring the mind…”Rebecca Solnit

Moving frequently entails a lot of sacrifices, but the rewards can be even greater.  Though I often wished we lived closer to our extended families, or lived in a place long enough to build our own home the way we wanted it, or didn’t have to settle into new communities, churches and schools, I never regretted being an Air Force family.

Whatever we lost to relocation we gained in other aspects of life.  In fact, looking back, it’s almost as if we lived several lives, one for each place we were based.  Each location had its joys and sorrows, its unique terrain, climate and personality, and its own cast of characters, many of whom remain dear to us to this day.

In one sense, we “can never go home again,” but we leave invisible traces of ourselves in each place we have lived, and come away as different people than we would have been without our experiences there.  When we return, a thousand forgotten moments come flooding back, and the past becomes dimensional and real to our present.

What places live on in your memory?  Where have you found that exploring the world means exploring your own mind?

One year ago today:

The true traveler


  1. Susan

    Good morning! As a traveling consultant, I’m enjoying some similar benefits to those you mentioned. I have a slightly different twist in that I’ve only been traveling for about two years, after being in one home for eighteen years. I still have my house, which my boyfriend has been living in and keeping up, and I return almost monthly to see family and friends. Yet recently I found myself crying in my kitchen, because it just wasn’t “my kitchen” anymore. To much has changed. And my front room and living room are no longer “mine” and my deck… my deck is adorned with more flowers than I had ever grown, with a nice table and comfortable chairs. I feel a sense of loss, but I still love the new locations I’ve explored. And “my” deck has improved, I just don’t get to enjoy it often.

    • Susan, traveling around does come at a price, and emotions such as the ones you describe will sound familiar to many of us. Change can be so exciting and yet so hard at the same time. I’m learning to look back without wanting to go back, but sometimes the sadness overtakes me. One thing Jeff and I have learned is that even when we don’t move away from a place (at least not full time), things still change. During the tours when we were only somewhere 3 or 4 years, we were never there long enough to realize that nothing stays the same even if we don’t move around. We have experienced that sort of change for the first time with our York home – many of the friends we once felt very close to are gone now. Our society is so mobile but we never were aware just how much civilians move around until we stayed in one place for awhile! I hope that you will be able to keep your home and spend more time there eventually. That’s our plan for our York home and meanwhile we enjoy it as often as we can.

  2. raynard

    going to comment later Julia, like the picture. I will tell you about my first time on a horse, and it “wasnt Mr Ed lol be blessed

    • Raynard, I totally love Mr. Ed. People didn’t talk about “having an attitude” back then, but he certainly had one! That is one of the first shows I can remember really loving when I was a kid. I’ve been away from the computer for a couple of days so maybe you have already sent me a comment about your first horseback ride. I’ll be looking for it.

  3. bobmielke

    I served in the USAF from 1969-1973. I was stationed in Misawa, Japan – Kunsan, Korea – Ubon,Thailand and Keesler AFB in Biloxi, Mississippi for 44 weeks. I know what it means to move a lot. I also learned how to keep my personal possessions simple and few. Once you live outside the military you immediately start complicating moves.

    By coincidence I’m smack dab in the middle of another move, going to haul the big stuff to a store building I’ve rented for 2 months.Yes, in two months I get to do it all over again to my new “permanent” home. I’ll admit I hate moving. I’m 65 now and I can’t do things physically like I could when I was in my youth. I pay the price for pushing this old body with its arthritis, muscle pulls and aches & pains. I’ve already awakened to leg & foot cramps from hauling mattresses down a flight of stairs by myself. Maybe this next move will be my last. (…bury me quick)!

    • Bob, Jeff and I are often saying “we are too old to keep moving!” In fact, we kept our York home mostly to avoid another big move; we decided to just set up a place in the DC area for while we were there. Our plan was to keep it simple and spare, but even in 4 years, we have accumulated quite a lot there. We realized that moving around at least had the advantage of forcing us to keep things lighter than they are now. I hope that your move goes as easily as it possibly can — I too am having joint pain and seem to get sore much more easily, so I can sympathize with how hard it must be to do all that lifting and hauling (we rented appliance dollies or hand trucks from U-Haul and it made a big difference with the heavy stuff). Maybe your next home will not have as many steps. Good luck!

      • bobmielke

        Move #1 is now complete. I’m in my best friend’s condo and have already slept here the past three nights. It’s great having a friend so close. Warren’s returning to his job today so I’ve learned to change my personal schedule to accommodate his. I shower at night to not disturb him early in the morning. I only needed his help for a few hours on one day to help move 2-3 pieces of furniture so I’ve learned to live a most frugal life. I’m still sore but a few Aleve and I’ll be back to normal soon. I’m heading to my senior coffee club at McDonald’s this morning followed by a mass transit ride to the zoo. I park my scooter/car at the restaurant and pick it up on the return trip. That’s convenient for shopping and economical to travel. It is all working out fine and I’m glad to be away from my nut case landlord.

        • Bob, I am so happy the worst of this move is behind you. I agree that you will be far better off in a different situation. It’s great to have friends nearby to help us over these rough spots.

          • bobmielke

            I just came home from a zoo trip and feel much better. My spirit is lifted already.

            • I’m so happy to hear that! Animals are wonderful that way. Of course at the zoo, it’s also fun to watch the people. 😀

  4. I have fond memories of the two years I spent in Germany as a military wife. Back then, I regretted not living in military housing where I could interact with other American families. Now, I recognize the benefits of living within the German community, which placed me in an environment where I built positive relationships and overcame our differences in culture, language, color and religion.

    • Yvonne, I’ve had lots of military friends tell me they are so happy they did not live on base while they lived overseas. It would be challenging to live in a totally different world with so much to get accustomed to, but it also would be so rewarding. I’m happy you had that chance.

  5. I always dream of going once again to those old places – school, campus, the shops and streets we frequently visited during our college days. Having spent a good share of my youth days in the capital city of our State it is closer to my heart than my own home town. (Later I got married and settled in the same place.) I have worked in another city too but I felt out of place there.
    Such a sweet photo. Both the boys look so excited. Matt’s smile is, as usual, as cheerful as the sunlight. 🙂

    • Bindu, sometimes we go back to our old homes and it’s always a bittersweet experience. Sometimes things look quite different, sometimes not, but the memories of the past come flooding back and it can get very emotional. When we went back to the central coast of California after the boys were grown, we visited their elementary school (where Drew was in first grade and Matt in kindergarten) and Drew kept saying “this place used to be a lot bigger than it is now.” In reality it was almost exactly the same, 12 years later!

  6. Larry

    The best of memories are the simplest and most precious. Whether on a farm, in the floor of the den playing a game, at a park sitting on a swing, having a picnic in the back country or just time spent with loved ones. When you think about it, it isn’t the distance gone, or the money spent but the time together. It the simplest and most treasured moments that make memories.
    Grandmother said she loves seeing that picture of her Denton boys.

    • Thanks Larry! Those photos bring back memories of a fun day. My friend Judy worked with me at Piedmont Airlines (later USAir) and we had a great time at her family’s farm.

  7. Julia, hello. Nice photo of your guys 🙂
    My daughter and SIL, are retired Army. Traveled around…now live in Arizona. Hope to spend few days with them in July. Must recover from this upper respiratory infection first. lol

    • Hey Merry, I have always heard that Arizona is a great place to get over upper respiratory infections – maybe you can go there to recover! 🙂 Seriously, I hope you are feeling better soon. Be sure to take a HAT to Arizona to protect you from that hot sun. It’s nice there though because it isn’t too humid, or at least it wasn’t in Tucson when we went there over forty years ago.

  8. Sheila

    Julia, we have moved many times and many places. Career does that! Yesterday, when you mentioned being on the boardwalk at Virginia Beach, I relocated for a few minutes to that very place. I remembered strolling our baby on that same boardwalk in 1970. It’s overwhelming to think of all that’s happened since that time. Sacrifices and rewards, perfectly stated! 🙂

    • Sheila, 1970 still sounds recent to me until I stop and think about all that has happened since then. I wonder what the boardwalk looked like in those days? Some of the older hotels were there then, I’m sure, but I wonder whether it was as long then as it is now, and as pretty (or maybe it was prettier in those days). Was the statue of Poseidon there? We had a lot of fun strolling Grady up and down there, and he got a big kick out of it. He loved the volleyball players on the beach best of all, I think. I’m guessing the coffee shop we love that I’ve blogged about twice before, the Belvedere, must have been open then. It has a very 1960’s vibe.

  9. MaryAnn

    Your beautiful boys experiencing the joys of horseback, even bareback! The horse appears to be peaceful, glad to accommodate the riders. Horseback riding in New Mexico, 1957 to 1960, always comes to mind when asked about fond memories. My mother was born & raised in NM. I was 12 in ’57. My cousins are cowboys, took me riding many times. A girl I went to school with in Stanley, NM; invited me to spend the weekend several times. Her mother & my mother went to school together at the same school where we met! Her family let me ride, too. We are still friends to this day. Like you stated a treasure, indeed!

    • I didn’t realize Miss Annie was from New Mexico! How interesting. I’ve never known a real-life cowboy although our Hawaiian friend worked as a paniolo on the Big Island when he was young. Isn’t it wonderful to be in touch with childhood friends for all these years? I’ve always been a bit afraid of horseback riding, but Matt loves it to this day. He usually rides at camp and hopes to ride again this summer if he’s able to go, which the doctors predict he will be.

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