Taking Time to Remember Places

This weekend marked the fifteenth summer my dad has participated in the Denver Chalk Art Festival. What started as a fun experiment – he hadn’t done many chalk murals before this experience – has turned into a marker of summertime for our family.

In the early years, my brother would drive down from Fort Collins and my parents up from Colorado Springs to stay in whatever un-air conditioned apartment I was renting close to downtown. My dad would draw all day in the hot sun while my mom, brother, and I would sit under a shady tree drinking countless Arnold Palmers.

It was at the Chalk Fest that Frank first met my parents, the only person wearing a dress shirt in the middle of a sweltering summer day. As our family grew, a weekend of hanging out turned into a morning visit before naptime. Now, our girls have a longer attention span and Bea even helps grandpa with the background coloring.

Each year has marked a difference in the growth of Denver. Our first summers were spent in the shade at a downtown park. Now, that park has been paved into a parking lot. The crowds have grown, too. Parking is at a premium, even in light rail lots and on these days, you can feel the groan of a small city becoming a big city.

I’ve been thinking about place a lot recently. Maybe it’s because Frank and I just returned from a week in Paris, a city that shaped my college years. Going back was a complex experience. I recognized a place where I had made big changes, transitioning from child to adult but also a city that hasn’t changed all that much in the past five hundred years.

In front of my favorite apartment in Paris

I was reminded of the importance of visiting places that have shaped us, whether for a few months, a few years, or a lifetime. There’s something about grounding my feet on the stones that had a part in shaping my theology, my worldview, and (though unknown to me at the time) my parenting.

Going to downtown Denver reminded me of those post-college years, when I returned to a state I had spent most of my childhood. Suddenly, I went from a world explorer to someone who returned home. Now, fifteen years later, it sometimes feels like I had never left at all. People who I have recently met most likely don’t even know I had lived abroad or traveled much before kids. It’s a weird feeling, having profoundly impacting experiences that were so long ago no one knows.

I wonder if, in fifteen or twenty years, we will leave the suburbs for a new adventure? Will I come back to this neighborhood with a sense of nostalgia, looking for a place to ground my new identity? I wonder how my girls will view this house and this space as they reflect on their childhood?

Mostly, I’m thankful for opportunities to go and remember the impact of a physical space on my journey. Whether it’s a trip to Paris or a morning spent downtown, I’m reminded of the importance of place in my story.

Is there a city or place that had a profound impact on your journey? Have you gone back to visit?

Finding My Place at Home

This summer passed by in a flash. Before we knew it, school started and we were thrown into a routine. Part of me was so ready to get into this rhythm of schedules and the security of knowing what happens on Tuesday. But part of me mourned the fact that we were out of time for one more camping trip; one last swim at the pool; one more lazy day.

IMG_5895I suppose this is what the changing seasons is – an excitement in the new mingled with disappointment of what is lost.

We had a trip to Yellowstone planned for this weekend. Just one more adventure before the weather turned cold. We’d stay in a little cowboy cabin, head down to Jenny Lake one day and up to Lake Hotel and the Geyser Loop the next. Until we saw the forecast for snow. As much as we love northern Wyoming, I didn’t want to be in a cabin without heat or electricity in the snow and rain.

In so many ways, this is probably a good thing. We just got back from a weekend in Ocean City (where it rained!) and are still settling into a good routine. A laid-back weekend is never a bad thing.

Frank grew up going to Ocean City – it’s part of his family history and it was fun watching the girls create a new generation of memories there. All of the cousins go regularly and love it and it was magical watching our landlocked kids chase the waves, dig in the sand, and eat ice cream right before a greasy dinner. Ask any of Frank’s family for a memory of childhood and most likely Ocean City will play a large part of the story.

In a lot of ways, we want Yellowstone to be similar for our kids. Already, Bea remembers hikes we’ve done and geysers we’ve seen. We want this park to be a place of good family memories, the stuff that starts most of our stories.

Last year, I listened to part of a podcast and the phrase, theology of place was used. I don’t remember the exact point or where the conversation went from there, but that idea stuck with me. It’s the theology of tangible moments; of creating a gritty story that you can run through your fingers. It’s finding God in the routines outside of home; in the stories we tell as a family to our children. It’s this idea that our place matters. The locations in which we choose to spend our time matter.

I love the intentionality behind this theology. That our routines matter and that kids have something to look forward to in their vacations. And yet, life gets busy or things happen and that place may look different.

When I reflect on our weekend in Ocean City, our girls loved the physicality of being next to the ocean, yes. But the loved hanging out with their cousins, playing games, reenacting Moana, waking up together, eating every meal together so much more. I need to remember the point behind the place.

I’m learning to look around right now, in our own home. What are we doing to establish a theology of place routine? I remember that for many, an escape to the mountains or the beach is simply not possible. And yet, this family rhythm is still important. What park do we always visit? What pancakes mark rest and vacation? What simple things do we do to remember our place in this world?

I’m not sure if this is exactly what that podcast meant but for me, theology of place is grounding me home and reminding me that our everyday rhythms are as significant as the vacation routines we’ve established, as well.

Where do you find your rhythms? When you think about theology of place, do you think of your home or a destination?