When I was in my mid-20s, I spent a summer in New York City working and studying. I immediately fell in love with the city and found my pulse danced to the constant rhythm of traffic and people; to a compact space filled with people that was alive and moving at any hour of the day.
It was a world away from the relatively quiet way I’d lived up until then and I couldn’t get enough.
I was staying in an apartment on the campus of Columbia University and working at New York University, at the opposite end of the island and I spent most of my days traveling up and down Manhattan by subway or taxi, sometimes by bus.
One day I was lost in thought as I walked several blocks from the subway stop to my apartment, already accustomed to the noise and crowded sidewalks and the heat, when, suddenly, something arrested me. I stopped, confused. I didn’t know why, but I was instantly and deeply, homesick. I missed my husband. I wanted my grandmother, my cats. I could think of nothing but the important people and places in my life, a life that was a thousand miles away.
I noticed the man pushing a lawnmower across Columbia’s wide quadrangle, a place always populated by students and others moving quickly from one place to another, or lounging, relaxing, socializing and realized it was the scent of freshly mowed grass that had hit me. It was the familiar fragrance so closely associated with summer where I was from that had overpowered the smell of asphalt baking in the sun and garbage in the dumpsters and food from the tiny bars and delis lining the street.
It had found me and wound around me, capturing me the way such things do in cartoons.
I’ve never forgotten the way I felt that day and I was reminded of it again last night when I stepped out my back door to enjoy the last light of the day. My husband had just mowed our tiny back yard and the air was heavy and sweet with the smell of green summer grass.
And, in the peculiar way life has of taking the years and turning them over and inside out, and then at the most unexpected moments handing them back to us to examine, I was assailed by the memory of being young and brave and foolish. Of being so hungry for adventure and experience I would jump at almost any opportunity to go and do and see.
I am now, I realized, a product of the joys and heartaches; the babies, the jobs, the moves and the experiences that have shaped me since that hot August day in New York. I’ve traveled the world. I’ve seen a few things along the way. But long ago I surrendered to the knowledge that wherever I go I am always, inextricably, drawn back to the green grass of home.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review and is the editor of Spokane Metro Magazine. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons.”
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org