The language of fish

There are different textures in our days here: Old wood and tree trunks. Wet sidewalks. Mud and sand, and lots of grass. Nights are quiet and cool, shadows are long, and the outdoors is spacious and welcoming. 

Do we like it here? We are asked this question daily, by students or other faculty or townspeople, proud of their town and eager for our approval. The answer is yes, an unqualified yes.

They don't ask if we miss Hong Kong, the answer to which is also yes. We miss little things, like people taking off their shoes in spaces where babies will be crawling around, and those umbrella bags hanging at the entrance to every mall or building on rainy days. We think it's funny that just as once Matt had a hard time telling apart his Chinese students, now he has a hard time distinguishing among his white students. (The girls--especially the girls! They all look the same.)

We miss our little apartments. It used to be that no matter what Matt and I were doing with our evenings, we were in the same room, at least, sharing the time by means of sharing the space. But now we are cut off, folding clothes in the bedroom, grading papers at the table, knitting at the sofa or washing dishes in the kitchen. I'm tempted to bring the sofa into the dining room, consolidating our space once again.

People push huge strollers here, and I have yet to see another baby worn in a baby carrier. We have a hand-me-down jogging stroller that's been in storage all these years, and I feel strangely American and awkward using it—it's so big! and heavy! I have to physically lift up the front wheel in order to turn a corner.

I'm not at all thrilled to be living in a place where the local gun shops put 4-page, full color advertisement inserts in the daily newspaper, for much more than just hunting rifles. But we do love being just a short drive away from Amish country, where horses and buggies come clip-clopping down the road and even the thrift store has a hitching post. We love the frequent communal meals, the after-meal frolicking of the kids.

Yes, there is a different texture, curiously familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. And we're learning to speak a new language, a language of home and roots, a language of a school with long tradition and a town with a heritage. We're learning to avoid the creakiest floorboards in Willa's room, and how to navigate the stairs in the dark. And through it all, our kids keep asking us questions, and keep us asking questions, keeping the wonder alive. 

People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering.

St. Augustine

A conversation this morning:

Finn: Las tortugas. That means turtles.
Me: Yes, that's right, turtles in Spanish.
Finn: Yeah. (long pause) But how do we know the language of fish?

I don't know, my son. But keep asking. Keep asking. 

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