More Reflections about Life Transitions

As things here in Harrisonburg become more familiar with each passing day, I’ve been reflecting back to our move. We had several unusual encounters with nature, all within a week before we left Massachusetts that felt like more than coincidences.

One day we were traveling south on Route 116, about a mile from our home, when a little bear cub went running across the street just ahead of us. David stopped the van, and we watched it run off into the woods, and then disappear down into a little ravine. We looked around, wondering if Mama Bear could be far behind, but we didn’t see her. We had never seen a bear in the nine years we lived in Sunderland, so that was pretty special.

Then one day, we had a visitor via the living room window. We had never before seen a praying mantis on our property, so that was another unusual occurrence. Later, David found a larvae of a praying mantis, which we left behind for the children.

The morning of our closing, a praying mantis made another appearance as David and I were fitting the last belongings into our moving truck. David came up to me with it perched on the palm of his hand. It flew up to my chest, and sat there for a long moment. Then it made as if it was going to crawl down my shirt. That was a little much, so David put it back into the garden where he’d found it.

Because we lived right under Sugarloaf Mountain near the Connecticut River, we saw a wide variety of birds, including hawks and eagles. David and I often slept with our window cracked open, and over the years we wondered why we didn’t hear owls at night. For several summers, I kept hearing a mockingbird making all kinds of calls around midnight, but no owls. Wouldn’t you know, on our very last night in our home, we heard an owl. It actually woke me up, and I usually sleep so soundly, I wouldn’t wake up for something like that. David was already awake, trying to figure out what it was he was hearing. By listening to owl calls on All About Birds, we’ve identified it as a Northern Saw-whet Owl. The call that sounds just like the one we heard is labeled “whine-like call.”

Owls seem to appear at crucial times in my life. Back in 2011, the night before I was to give my first book talk in Burlington, Vermont, we were staying with our friends, Carol and Kevin McQuillen. I couldn’t sleep, so I went downstairs to their family room and sat quietly, to still my soul. And then I heard an owl… whoo-whoo-whooooo…uuu. Then I knew I would do all right. More then 140 people showed up for that talk. The person who introduced me said they hadn’t had that big a crowd since Ambassador Galbraith spoke there. I almost had the shakes before I stepped out on that stage. Then I had a stern talk with myself. “Saloma, you did not wait 17 years to publish your book and tell your story to lose your courage now. This is your audience, now you get out there and talk to them.” So I took a deep breath, walked out, and did my first talk. It broke the ice for all my other talks.

David and I accepted the owl calls on our last night in our home as a gift from Mother Nature herself. We felt like the owl, the bear cub, and the praying mantis were all good signs for the move we were making.

As always, I appreciated all your comments on my last blog entry. I enjoyed your stories about moves you’ve made in the past. They reminded me that no move comes without its challenges. The truth is, I feel good about the community we’re integrating into AND I miss our old home. A lot. I keep telling myself that not everything will be this new forever, that we’ll find a home that is right for us, and that we’ll get settled and feel familiar in our surroundings again someday. It is only natural that we’ll miss the home we put so much into for so many years.

Meanwhile, I am enjoying spending my days with David. I love how he makes me laugh. A few days after our move, we were headed to the Sheetz station around the corner to get gas. We were waiting in a line of traffic and there was a dog sticking his head out the window of the pickup in front of us. It was one of those dogs with big jowls, like a boxer or pit bull. As semi-trucks rolled around the corner, the dog glared at the tires going by. His head would actually pivot from right to left, and his jowls twitched, like he could barely contain himself. David made a low growling noise and included in the growl, “Well, I oughta!” As I looked at the aggression emanating from that dog, I burst out laughing. I said, “That is exactly what it looks like he’s saying!” I could not stop laughing. David could not figure out why I was laughing so hard, and I couldn’t explain why it struck me so funny. Every time I thought I was done laughing, a whole new set of giggles would bubble up from within.

Today we had another reminder of why we love living in the Shenandoah Valley. My niece, Kate, visited us on her way from the DC area to Charlotte, North Carolina to visit her family for Thanksgiving. It was so great to see her, and we look forward to seeing her again in a few weeks when she comes to visit for the weekend. I promise to post some photos of her visit. (I admit to having had so much fun with her today, that I forgot to take photos). Kate took a photo of our lunch table:

I close wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. May you be surrounded with loved ones and enjoy delicious food and lots of good cheer.

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15 thoughts on “More Reflections about Life Transitions”

  1. The owl, the praying mantis and the bear were all saying, goodbye and good luck! Too bad you couldn’t see the saw-whet. They are small and reports I hear say they are very approachable. Peterson says “a tiny, absurdly tame little owl.” Sorry we never got to meet. (I’m your Northampton neighbor, or was.)

    1. Johanna, I’m also sorry we never got to meet. I would have enjoyed that. So glad to hear from you, though. Thanks for your thoughts about the owl, praying mantis, and the bear cub. That is what it felt like Mother Nature was saying to us.

      Just hearing the owl was fine with me. I have seen owls during the day once, in Minnesota. It was in the afternoon, and we were about to get a storm, so it got really dark, and the owls started flying. ‘Twas was pretty amazing.

      It’s great to hear from a “neighbor” from the North. Thank you!

  2. My husband and I relocated for retirement last spring. We left the life we had built for 30 years in Southern CA to be closer to what makes sense – water, forests, wildlife – and we chose the upper peninsula of Michigan. It has been more than we could have ever bargained for, but we also can’t imagine being anywhere else. We are in the small town of Rock, which is 20 miles from “town”. As we navigated the roads to and from town in the early days, I looked for landmarks at our turns so that they became more familiar to us. Newness is hard at any age, but I think as we age it is even more challenging. For those moving to new areas, time is our friend – it is on our side. For with the passing of each day, week, month, and now into the new year – things get just a little more comfortable and a little easier. By the way, I am new to your blog, just had my first visit to Amish Country in Indiana which sparked my interest in researching the treatment of women in Amish culture. Having left a pretty well known fundamentalist religion over a decade ago, where education was considered dangerous and men were to be obeyed, I have been fascinated by your shares. Thank-you for your honesty.

    1. Kathy, you are welcome here. Thank you for sharing a bit about your journey. You and your husband are much braver than I am. I’m a people person, so being that far out would not be my choice. I bet nature there is pretty awesome, though!

      Thank you also for sharing about your past. I’m sure you relate to my story in concrete ways. I have found people at my book talks who have come from all manner of fundamentalist religions, and we always have a lot to talk about.

      Best of luck to you as you continue to settle in to your new environment.

  3. This is almost unbeliavabl that you have seen this in those last days.
    How special is that. hear you enjoy the time together. It makes you feel young again. And laughter is good for the soul too.
    Greetings to both of you from the “North”.

    1. Wilma, thank you for your thoughts. I know, those occurrences were pretty awesome, weren’t they?

      Laughter is indeed good for the soul, so that must mean that David is good for my soul, because he makes me laugh… smile.

      Greetings from the South to you, Wilma.

  4. Saloma, I’ve been taken up with my own move and didn’t realize you were moving just over the mountains from here. We sold our big house and have moved into a lovely townhouse here in Charlottesville. We needed to seriously downsize. I hope that we can get together sometime and finally meet in person. My best to you and David in your new home. Welcome to Virginia!

    1. Thank you, Joan, for your warm welcome. I just noticed you moved from your latest blog post. Congratulations! It’s so hard to move from a beloved home to something smaller, isn’t it? I still have pangs whenever I think of the house we left behind. I’m sure that will go on for a while.

      I really look forward to meeting you in person. I feel like I know you, considering we’ve shared our memoirs with one another. Having tea with you sometime will be a wonderful thing.

      I wish you the best as you get settled in your new place. It looks lovely!

  5. Such an uplifting blog Saloma and what a good time of year for it. How blessed you and David are to be given these simple gifts of nature to carry you along new paths. Thank you for taking us along. Hope you had a joyous and peaceful Thanksgiving.

  6. I miss your old home too, and I’ve only seen it in photographs!

    It sounds like you’ve moved to a wonderful new place, though.

    Wishing you and David the best in your new home.


    1. I know, it’s hard for me to look at the photos, I miss it so. David runs the other way when the photos come up. With time, I’m sure this will change, especially when we find a place of our own.

      Thank you for your good wishes, Stacy. Blessings to you as well.

  7. Hi Saloma,
    I decided recently to cut back on TV watching and computer work and I bought both of your books. They were both spell binding–I couldn’t put them down. You certainly have a gift, and thank you for sharing that gift.

    I’m glad you are settling into your new home. It seems as if it is the right place for you. All of those signs (the owl, the praying mantis, etc) were good omens for your move to another home.

    I hope you and David had a happy Thanksgiving, and may you have a blessed Christmas.

    1. Denise, thank you for letting me know you enjoyed my books. It is heartening to know there are still people reading them! Thank you also for the kinds thoughts about our move and your good wishes. I wish you a blessed Christmas as well.

      I always feel good when I make decisions that take a screen away from in front of my face for a while. Books are good. So happy reading!

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