familiarity

You might not guess it, but a surprising number of things here feel familiar. I find myself mistaking the landscape for Maine, which my family visited four years ago, or California, where I’ve spent more vacations than I can count, and even Michigan. There’s a yellow shrub here that I thought must have been forsythia the first time I saw it. When I asked, Jon told me its name: scotch broom. It’s in bloom all over the hillsides, in ditches, along the edges of pastures and highways. You can’t drive a hundred yards without seeing another cluster of bushes. Native to Western Europe, it’s considered an invasive species here in Washington, and there are all sorts of efforts to remove it. While I’m all for native plants and understand the risks of invasive species, I can’t help but be delighted by this shrub that reminds me of home.

Even the people at First Reformed seem familiar. Everyone reminds me of someone—someone from Third or Fellowship, a friend from high school, a classmate from college. Now that we’ve been here a week and have interacted with people more than once, I can’t tell if they’re familiar because they remind me of other people or because I’ve now actually met them and have filed them into my memory. It’s a strange mix of knowing and not knowing, of remembering and forgetting. It sounds poetic, but it’s not. It’s usually just embarrassing. I have to ask for people’s names a second and third time. Just this morning, I spent half an hour staring at pictures in the church’s now-outdated photo directory, trying to match names to faces, and conversations to both names and faces. As hard as I work to lock those in, though, I know that as soon as I encounter a person in a new environment—at the grocery store or in the sanctuary—all of the identifying information will flee my brain, and I’ll be left looking dumbstruck and disoriented.

Sunday afternoon proved to be sunny and clear. We could see the snowy peaks of the Cascades from Carol’s deck. After sitting and talking for a while, Dan suggested that we take advantage of the weather and drive down to Ebey’s Landing. We packed dinner, slipped on our jackets, and took Highway 20 to Coupeville.

Ebey’s Landing has made more than one appearance in our married life. Trygve used the image in our wedding sermon, since the land is protected land, marked off and preserved, much like a marriage. Fittingly, he and Kristen gave us a photograph of the landing, the bluff glowing violet and pink in the sunset. The picture hangs in our bedroom.

After our dinner, as we walked down the beach, Dan remarked that being at Ebey’s Landing felt almost like being at home. Something about knowing the place ahead of time, about having it hanging in our apartment in Holland, allowed this place, this physical place, with its pebbles and driftwood and darting baby rabbits, to be home to us.

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