Fall trees, or a sign of change to come

Orange tree against a gray sky

Fall in the Ozarks is a glorious time. On a sunny, blue-skied day, even the most skeptical among us probably believe in some form of higher power, because it’s just inspiring to imagine that the fiery reds and yellows and oranges result from the sweep of a divine brush over the landscape.

And then you have days like today, when those same bold, triumphant colors compete with the gray of a cloudy/rainy sky. Today, I find those trees and their brash pop of color are speaking directly to my heart.

Today, I was offered and accepted a new job. In Boston.

There is a leap of joy and bright color in my heart as I type that. And yet, it also feels like I’m leaping against a gray sky, a sky that symbolizes the sadness at leaving behind what has come to be safe, warm and familiar.

I’ll blog more about the job later on, because right now, that’s not what’s on my mind. Yes, it great to know that I am still an employable human, and I am thrilled and charged up about the mission of my soon to be employers.  And I’m going to BOSTON! But right now, I am thinking about my eight years in Arkansas.

Those first days, when my midwestern and northeastern friends would say “you’re moving where?” and I would defend the decision, but secretly, in my heart, wonder if they were right in their skepticism.

Those first months, when I was welcomed with Buffalo River floating trips and 100 degree days and the standard “oh, you’re from up north? But you like it here, right?”  Yes, I would say, and mean it, sometimes to my surprise.

Those first few years, when I had to figure out if I could fit in here, me with my single, Yankee, churchless ways.  When I started to really feel like I could make a difference.

The middle years, when I wondered what was next, felt a little restless, and yet somehow found myself determined to stay, to make my mark, to be a part of this vital, growing, contradictory place.

And the last few years, when I began to  seriously consider leaving, but always with a pang of regret that drowned out my wanderlust, until this past summer when circumstances contrived to say “It’s time to go.”

So I am going. And while I still feel the gaps in my life that make leaving my best choice, I know there will be other gaps that open up when I go. I will miss my people, my drive to work, my walks to the dog park, my frustration with regional politics, my inherited pride in this place that is, without qualification, a REMARKABLE place to live and work.

Today, I chatted with a friend who is also (sort of) leaving, and she said the most intriguing thing. She said “You know what is awesome? A company in Boston is hiring someone from Arkansas.”  I have never, in all my time here, considered myself “from” Arkansas. That privilege seemed reserved for those who have been here far, far long than I.  But 8 years of my life have been shaped by this place, and I am…I guess this is the right word…honored that I will get to take all that I have learned and been given back to the Northeast. I am a vastly different person since the last time I lived in New England, and I am a better person because of the people and values I learned here.

So yes, I’m shipping up to Boston, but I am bringing Arkansas along in my heart. I’m not going to stop saying “y’all”, and I’m going to remember that sometimes snark isn’t the right answer to a thorny problem. And yes, despite my best efforts to remain immune, I will probably pay a little more attention to the SEC.

For my first few years here, I compared glorious autumns like this to New England autumns, which are also spectacular. Somewhere along the way, I began to accept Ozark fall as the standard, and now, heading north, I will be comparing foliage in the other direction. I guess that’s just life imitating nature, seasons following seasons, change always pushing us to whatever comes next.

15 thoughts on “Fall trees, or a sign of change to come

  1. Oh Jodi! You almost made me cry reading this! I’m glad that you’ve enjoyed your time in AR, and although I was just a small part of your 8ys – I’m glad that you were a big part of my 33! 🙂

  2. Congrats! I’m so happy for you. My first few years in Arkansas found me wanting desperately to move back to Austin (I missed it so much). Now that I’ve left Arkansas, I’m constantly wanting to go back – even though I’m in a wonderful place. Arkansas was truly special to this out of state transplant and it will always be with me. Even if I land where people look at me strange when I say “it’s about yaaaay big”.

    1. I think this place sinks hooks into you without you knowing it. I’m glad to know I’ll be able to come back when I need my fix of southern hospitality.

  3. Jodi, although I only knew you briefly when you worked at DW in Princeton, you made an impact on me, pretty much the way Adella did. The two of you are so bright, both intellectually and personality-wise. I feel privileged to have known you and enjoy keeping in touch via Facebook and your blogs. I’m so happy for you and hope that someday I will get to see you again! Take care and God bless!

  4. Though I’ve never met you, we share the Ozarks and I too felt the heart-strings tug on my drive home in the dreary weather with the bright trees singing all the way home. Good luck with your new job. I’ve never been to Boston but my son tells me its nice 🙂

  5. This is a beautiful, thoughtful post, and so I have to apologize for getting excited and oversimplifying things by jumping up and yelling out, “WELCOME HOME JODI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

    I can’t wait to welcome you back in person. In the meantime, as someone who left Boston for a while and came back, I do understand the heartache that comes from leaving a place you’ve learned to love.

  6. As one who will probably never permanently leave Arkansas, I have to thank you for writing so beautifully about it. There’s something about this small, complicated state that sinks deep and hangs on… When you find your “Arkansas tank” getting low, call me or Lisa or watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Za-NCXPe_c&feature=youtube_gdata_player . . . Looking forward to the New Adventures of the Fabulous 3 since one of us will now be closer to the edge of the country. Opens up all kinds of possibilities for new adventures!! XOXO

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