We’re excited to welcome Rachel Mosley to Foundling House. Rachel is one half of the duo The Mosleys, a husband-and-wife singer-songwriter team based out of Atlanta. You can see them this August at Escape to the Lake!
Our family of seven is moving, and in the process of saying goodbye to the home and friends we have loved for nearly a decade, I’ve become more aware of my love for this place and the people of it. I had thought that taking a month of travel away from home would help me accomplish a detachment, but I find it has done the opposite.
Earlier this summer, Stephen and I celebrated our fifteenth wedding anniversary. Our souls had been stirring and restless over the past year, and we’d spent late evenings after the children were put to bed chatting about how life has shaken out thus far. We’d long had an idea brewing and hatched a crazy, illogical plan to buy an Airstream trailer and spend a year traveling the country with our five children, road schooling—whatever that is—and living a wild American dream. We would be free of long commutes. We’d have energy in the evenings instead of dragging half-dead from four o’clock to bedtime. There would be campfires and fireflies and board games and sunshine. Children grow fast, and soon mine will be too big to fit in a tiny trailer. We want so badly to hold on to these kids, to draw in close and create memories we can embellish for years to come, making it all sound more fun than it really was, turning it over time into the perfect, dreamy summer. We tracked down a Safari Bunkhouse, a rare model trailer that had enough sleeping space for all of us, and we painted and renovated. Our year kept shrinking as we fought through the logistics of disappearing from jobs and lives, but we landed on six weeks of adventure, the National Parks of the West our destination.
On the last day of May, we picked the children up from school, hitched up the Airstream, and headed out. The kids seemed so centered, so themselves, while we traveled. Fighting was intense for the first few days, but then they shifted from adversaries into a little tribe of wild Moslings. This is a benefit of having half a dozen children—we are a large enough group to have a culture all our own. When we’re alone together, we’re the Incredibles. Or the Weasleys. Once we reached Topeka, Kansas, on our second or third night of the trip, the landscape changed from the forgettable and familiar to the strange and new, and we were drawn right out the windows.
The excitement of always being somewhere different made each morning Christmas-like. We braved treacherous mountain passes. I allowed the children to climb way up high in the Badlands, and then I made myself climb up behind them. Jacob can now identify birds, and the girls shared soap and shampoo and books and chatted like college roomies. Henry the Wanderer made it all the way out west and back, and we didn’t lose him even once. We made it through nineteen beautiful states, seeing Yellowstone, The Grand Tetons, Custer, Bandelier, Black Hills, Badlands, Rocky Mountain National Park, Dinosaur National Monument, Santa Fe, Jackson Hole, Hot Springs National Park, the National Elk Refuge, and all that lies in between.
When our transmission went out, high atop Raton Pass near Absolutely Nowhere, New Mexico, we pushed on to Santa Fe, where we were stuck for four days awaiting repairs. “An accident is an adventure wrongly considered,” according to Chesterton, and this interruption turned into a relaxing, rewarding respite, forcing us to settle in one place for a while. I was particularly sad about seeing only the top corner of Utah, and it took me a few days to get over myself and enjoy what was in front of me. Bandelier National Monument, which we had intended to skip in lieu of Utah’s glamour, became the highlight for everyone.
There’s a quote I keep seeing: “We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” I can’t manage to dig up the author, but I was struck by the way I began to notice things once again out west—the way my dull, bored eyes began to see brightly. I was also struck by how I glazed over again somewhere back in Arkansas, where the landscape became the one I have always known. It happened so quickly that I was ashamed. And while I thought we would remember each place, each Junior Ranger program, each Visitor’s Center and camping spot, it’s all a blur. Rather than a collection of experiences, an acquisition, we’ve had an infusion. Yet what I saw in my children remains vivid in my mind. They were beautiful little people, free and at ease in the world.
Back home in our pretty house in Atlanta, our month of adventure is starting to settle down in my mind, growing shinier and developing a golden glow in my memory. The vestiges of our summer travels are all around me—muddy laundry, swimming suits hung to dry, water bottles to wash and put away. These things still have a little gold dust clinging to them.
We have been gone for so long that our home seems empty of us, though it’s just as we left it. I feel out of sync with the house and its suburban sort of life. The tap water tastes funny. I am at the mercy of the laundry, the sweeping, the shopping, the cooking. I have long felt the drain of regular life, even though I know there is a beautiful sacrifice in it—living in a place, serving it, belonging to it, and finding joy and God and goodness in the daily-ness of washing up, pouring coffee for a friend, and chasing babies. These are the normal things, the things we are made for, the sanctifying ordinary that fits perfectly in my Catholic soul.
Mother Teresa said something about how we don’t own things, but our things own us. Back just three days, I miss the simplicity of each person having two pairs of shoes, a Sunday outfit, and six sets of clothes. We each had one set of dish ware. I took only one bag, and so I set aside my morning habit of searching through pockets and bags to find my phone and wallet. Meals were simple—mostly raw things from the tiny fridge. With only a few options, there was no tyranny of choice to tire our minds. I did not miss the washing machine, the dishwasher, the computer, or the toys. Certainly some of this simplicity can be retained, but voluntary simplicity is much more difficult. Having soaked for a full month in glorious beauty, I now want to shift my eyes to see the unassuming, books-on-the-nightstand, red-beans-in-the-kitchen beauty that is still all around me.
As I write this, we are packing up the house we built, the house I have loved, and moving to Florida. My blue kitchen cabinets are mostly empty. Every dish I’ve packed away seems sad to leave. I am sharply aware of the precious life we have had in this place. Though I am thankful for the heightened awareness, it is painful, a sort of grief that seems silly and unjustified.
How do we keep seeing? I have spent many days in this house wishing I could get out, go somewhere, and not feel stuck. Now, I’d love to have more stuck days as this chapter swings hard to a close. I was anxious to stop nursing the baby, but when she finally did wean, I grieved. What I can’t seem to grasp is that life is the snap of a finger and the blink of an eye, and that for all my attempts to live in the moment, I don’t understand what that means. All I see passes like a landscape outside the car window. Only extraordinary moments catch my attention, and sometimes not even those. Most of my life rushes by, unspectacular and unnoticed, and I am unaware until it is long gone. As I grow older, I’d like to think I am becoming more aware of the swift speed of time, but I think I’m only grasping with more urgency than before.
Remember at the end of Our Town, when Emily gets to relive one normal day in her life, and she asks, “Does anyone ever realize life while they live it… every, every minute?” The Stage Manager answers, “No. Saints and poets, maybe… they do, some.” Maybe, some. I will aim to be saint and poet through truly looking at my children, my sisters, my kitchen, my house, my neighbors, and my street. I will try to see these things and remember how fast it all goes, and how wonderful every bit of it is.