A June Hymn Written From Sweet Virginia
Is this the home we're looking for?
Zach Bowman has sold everything he owns, slapped a camper to his high-mileage 2003 Dodge Ram and has taken his family on the road. His clan numbers three, counting wife, Beth, and their infant daughter. They are touring America, working and discovering, and are sending The Drive periodic dispatches from the road.
We’ve spent our Junes in Virginia. Blew a pile of them over the long decade since we packed up and said goodbye to family, and to the beautiful hills, to wander our way south in search of some kind of life. It’s the month we got twisted up together as kids—got engaged, got married. The month of the long, languid summer solstice, daylight hanging in the sky until well past nine, singing the sad truth that our days will only get shorter from here.
It's a month that has pivoted our lives together, my wife and I. We love it for that. Named our daughter for it. Each year, June calls us back to Virginia, to the old bones of the Blue Ridge and the tiny town that brought us together. Back to low mountains, their peaks hidden below a green veil of thick and sturdy hardwoods. Back to the web of clear and steady rivers. Back home.
This was the first year that didn’t leave my heart humming for the place. I didn’t want to come back. I didn’t want to leave the far-flung and unexplored corners of our country to return to the acres I know so well. We had finally found a rhythm to live by out there. Worked our way through the hellish first month of our new life on the road and dipped our toes into the wonder of the west. Going east again felt like defeat.
Driving up I-81, tracing the route I’ve worn thin in the years since I turned 12 and dad moved us to the heart of this state, made me itch. Shortened my temper. How is it we were back here again? How, after all our work and planning and dogged determination, were we back in the south we’d left behind?
Of all the worries we’d faced down in the four months since we left Knoxville, returning to Virginia brought on the biggest of them all. I was worried we would get comfortable—breathe in the thick summer air, humid and heavy as a deep exhale, and want to stay. That we’d want to give up the rest of our year on the road for the soft comforts of being so close to friends and family.
We’ve been here for more than two weeks now, and there’s a strange familiarity to our days. It feels like a shadow of my college summers, spending my mornings working construction in the sweltering heat, driving a ragged old Nissan pickup around town, waiting for the moon to rise each night. So much of it is the same.
So much of it isn’t. Many of our high school friends have returned to our small hometown, kids tagging along. And when we aren’t hanging drywall or scraping paint, we dine with people we haven’t spoken to at length in a decade or more, our children scrambling around on the hardwood floors, working their way between our legs and giggling fierce. We talk about what this place has to offer over LA or Atlanta or New York. There’s a sense that we’re part of something here. That our generation is inheriting the mantle of this county. That we’re already raising the chorus of voices that will carry it into the next century.
There’s something centering about it. Something that only comes from an old place with older bones. A place that sings the sad truth that our days are only getting shorter from here.