Well, it’s really happening.
My husband met with his future colleagues last Monday at Patuxent River Naval Air Station (“PAX” to the larger world, “NavAir” or “the base” to the locals) in southern Maryland and it was a mutual admiration fest.
A view of the Patuxent River through the car window from the Thomas Johnson bridge on a cold and rainy February afternoon. Look how big!
On Tuesday and Wednesday, we went house hunting and found not one, but two homes we love, both with woods in the back yard.
Our daughter has picked out her room in either home; one of them has a dormer window and we’ve promised to build her a little window seat so she can have her own special reading nook there.
The most amazing part? I’m actually excited.
I have been dreading this move for four years. NavAir paid for my husband’s advanced degree, allowing us to move back to Blacksburg for four years – a dream come true for me. I’m a Hokie, my husband’s a Hokie and a townie, my sister and brother-in-law are Hokies, as are my brother and sister-in-law. We know why the trees turn orange and maroon in the fall, because Virginia Tech is heaven on earth and God’s a big fan, too.
These mountains, this old New River, this small, smart, bustling town – here is the home of my heart.
I knew when we moved here that our allotted four years would fly too fast, but I never imagined that these next four (or hopefully, 10) years might be seriously lovely, too. And it turns out they really might.
On our short, rainy, cold visit to southern Maryland, the natural world reached out and pulled me right in.
There are woods – real woods! – complete with sturdy old white oaks, maples in early bud, and countless sweet gum trees and loblolly pines.
There are hills! I had expected only flat marshland, which would be fine, but I love hills – I think it’s the surprise of not knowing what comes next.
There are jetties and breaks made of chair-sized boulders. There are sandy beaches strewn with clam shells and claret colored seaweed.
There are three rivers all coming to meet the Chesapeake Bay: the Patuxent, the St. Mary’s, and the Potomac, all big and wide and deep and powerful.
And the place is just as truly alive as my mountains are. I can feel it pulsing just below the limits of my hearing, keeping time with my heart.
On our short visit, I saw and heard:
- A juvenile bald eagle buzz less than 20 feet over the roof of the car at Point Lookout State Park.
A bald eagle (Haliaeeatus leucocepphalus) must wait four years for its brilliant white head feathers, but identifying a juvenile isn’t so hard; the size of the bird is one thing and the size of that schnoz is another! Photo taken by KetaDesign and provided via Wikimedia Commons.
- A flock of at least 100 bufflehead ducks, who, by the way, look exactly like duckie stuffed animals dressed in white-on-black tuxedos by a five-year-old putting on an imaginary gala.
A bufflehead duck (Bucephola albeola) captured by Andy Reago and Chrissy McClarren and provided via Wikimedia Commons. Now imagine a hundred of them floating on little bay waves, chattering. Quite the fancy dress party!
- A loon and a grebe and innumerable ring-billed gulls.
Ring billed gulls (Laurus delawarensis) are the Goldilocks of gulls; not too big and not too small. Easy to spot by their black wingtips and the black “ring” around their bright yellow beak. Photo taken by Andy Reago and Chrissy McClarren and provided by Wikimedia Commons.
- A jellyfish with a peachy-pink center, likely a moon jelly, but I haven’t positively identified it yet, slowly bouncing through crystal clear waters.
The challenge for the next few months will be making enough room in my head and heart to be fully present in mountain spring while imaging a bright, bayside summer.