What is it about certain places that make them feel like “home”? I’ve lived all over the country in my 44 years…everywhere from Ohio to Washington to California to Colorado…and yet none of them, even the place where I was raised and lived over half my life, felt like “home.” There is one place, though, that always did – Indian Cove, in Guilford, CT.

I recently had the opportunity to have a short visit there again, and went back to this magical place for the first time in over 24 years. The last time I’d been there, my grandfather was alive and I was 18 – I’d just graduated high school and was full of the bravado and grand plans that most young adults have. I’d gone to visit my grandparents, and we spent time at their home in Stafford Springs, and went to their cottage in Indian Cove – a small association of summer cottages with a private beach. I remember going to the beach, and trying to soak in the smell of the air, and the feel of the ground-shell sand on my toes…the taste of the salt water and the incredible colors of this place…I didn’t know when I’d be back again. As it turned out, it was nearly a quarter of a century – a time that spanned two marriages, many multi-state moves, a few college degrees and the birth of three children.

People say that when you leave a place and try to return, nothing is ever the same. My sisters and my mother and I went to Connecticut for my mother’s 50th high school reunion, and the chance to revisit the places and people we’d known since we were all children. I met men and women who had known my mother since grade school, and one of them had harbored a secret crush on her throughout their years together. Seeing him look at her, I could see that, in his eyes, time hadn’t erased her beauty or his love for her. Likewise, time had not changed my heart toward this small bit of God’s country…my heart ached to see how much things had changed, and how much things had stayed the same.

As I sat on the beach at Indian Cove on a Friday morning, I had the beach entirely to myself…and again found myself trying to soak in all the smells, sights, sounds, tastes and textures of the cove. Again, I found myself unable to stuff in nearly as much as I wanted – I’m greedy for the salty air and water, and feel like a fish out of water when I’m away. To say I’m in love with the ocean is an understatement – it’s as much a part of me as are my blood and bones. That I live 2000 miles away, is a daily sliver in my heart that seems to bleed and ache whenever I think about it. I thought that being close might ease this pain – after all, I’ve felt it for over 24 years, and have learned to live with it – but found that instead of soothing the pain, the ache has become much, much worse. I dream of being on the Sound again, and of hearing the waves – I walk the beach in my dreams, and explore the rocks again and again.

As I beachcombed that Friday morning, and later on Sunday, there were moments when my tears blended with the salt of the ocean water…Sunday afternoon, I watched families sit and children play in shallows, and could see the ghosts of my childhood self playing right along with them. I remembered the adventure and daring of actually climbing the rocks out to the diving board, and how deep the water seemed to me as a child – even at low tide. Wading out to the raft, I was surprised that the water only came to my waist or so…and remember how scared I was of the possibility of sharks swimming alongside my vulnerable little legs. Once more, I braved the rocks to get to the diving board, and once more I sought the solitude of the back beach – no one went there, but that was where the best shells were found. Once more I walked along the paths to my grandfather’s cottage – now brown and tan instead of blue and white and home to a new family. Once more I felt the breeze in my hair, and heard the sound of the water gently lapping and licking the roughness of the rocks. One last time, I walked away, and felt the itchiness of the drying sand on my skin, and tasted the residue of the salt water on my fingers…

Will I get back? God knows I hope to…the dryness of the Colorado air has nearly scorched my lungs and I’ve developed asthma since living in the West. While the mountains of the Rockies are breathtakingly beautiful, Colorado – the subject of so many wistful and nostalgic songs – will never feel like home. Neither has Idaho, Utah or California…although they are each beautiful in their own ways, there is a foreigness to them that doesn’t quite ever touch or enter the place in my heart labeled “home.” I need the Atlantic, the humidity and the sea…without them I feel like a dessicated, empty shell -quite literally a fish out of water, gasping and frantically trying to get back to its natural home.

There are other considerations, however…my children were all born in the West – one in Idaho and two in Colorado – and have never known the pleasures of letting the salt water envelop and cradle you…have never heard their hearts beat in time with the waves. My husband was born in Texas and raised in Idaho – and until recently, had never been east of the Mississippi. None of them can even imagine living so far from home. There is a part of me that thinks, “If I can just get them out there, then they can see for themselves – they’ll have to go.” But the more realistic part of me knows that uprooting a tree from its native soil and transplanting it to another climate zone can be life-threatening.

So…I’m caught between fulfilling my heart’s dream and sacrificing my dreams for my loved ones – as women throughout the centuries have always done. Where will this end? I don’t know, but I do know this: The call of sea is strong, and the tide runs in my veins. I will be back, even if only for a visit. And it won’t take 24 years this time. If home is where your heart is, right now, home is 2000 miles away. And even if you never can go back, I do know you can always visit.

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