I'm coming to you this week having recently completed a new body of work (sign up for my email list to get the code for the webpage!) for the Twisted Compass Brewing coffee shop, opening in May. This was an incredibly fun project to embark, and the process started with a meeting with the founders to formulate a unified vision (which I hope I executed to their expectations!). The vision behind the shop was to foster that "community atmosphere," to bring people together from the neighborhood with a personalized attention to detail. The shop is utilizing all local vendors to supply the coffee and food, and the founders wanted the art on the wall to be familiar.
It got me thinking about a community, and what that means to me.
A few months ago, I separated from the Navy, and one thing I craved when my husband and I decided to lay down our roots in Jacksonville was a long term investment in the local people and places. I wanted to know the family veterinarian and the owners of our favorite local restaurant, to ride the highs and lows of all the seasons of our church, and to not be able to go to the grocery store without running into someone I knew (and for that reason, to always brush my hair prior to a trip!).
That being said, in the Navy, it's a much different community, especially if you stay in long enough. There is a lot of moving, and that is something I would take very hard. I really hated those goodbyes after a couple of years of investing in a place! But, on the other hand, that very next move will reunite you with a family or coworker ("shipmate," if you will!) that you had not seen in years because you were both assigned to the same spot. And the forced relocations, usually away from family, cause you to really rely on those friends nearby for support (and advice on great salons). It's not something I ever expected to gain from joining the Navy and it's completely wonderful.
"Roots" (in the traditional sense) were something I always pictured providing for my family, mostly because I was so blessed to be raised with them. I love the interesting tangle of relationships that happen when you are raised in one place, (and are lucky enough to come back to it!). However, I served with many people who came from military families, and I remember vividly how eye opening it was to learn about their incredible upbringings. They lived all over the world, and experienced more cultures before fifth grade than many people ever will. They often times had beautifully strong families and despite all the bouncing around, the same lifelong friends I enjoyed from serving with the same families in many of these places.
It really made me question my life plan, and up until my first child was about 6 weeks old, it was our intention to continue in that lifestyle and enjoy a different kind of community than we always assumed we would create for ourselves. Ultimately, however, when it came down to decision time, my husband and I decided "roots" was the right choice for us, but I am not exaggerating when I say that was the hardest decision I've ever made. I will say now, the ease of seeing both sets of family compared to what we would be experiencing has validated our decision, but that is obviously a very personal perspective! There is no one size fits all solution to that tradeoff.
As I moved through these paintings, I realized how much I take for granted the beauty of the backyard I returned to. I am so romanced by the novelty of what is unfamiliar: Those spindly trees of Tuscany, the arid vineyards of California, the farms of Georgia, and, well, seasons other than "summer." However, if I were one of those people who lived among the gorgeous landscapes I drool over and came to visit the backroads of Florida, I don't think I would find the wise canopy of oak trees or the mysterious salt marshes bland. It wasn't until I took a closer look at these roots that I remembered why I chose them in the first place.