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ANOTHER DAY IN THE COUNTRY: Life is full of migrations

© Another Day in the Country

While immigration has been in the news nonstop, what I’ve been thinking about, recently,  is that other kind of movement—migration.  When the starlings begin to gather to perform their aerial acrobatics, we’re reminded that Nature is on the move.

These cycles of movement—whether it’s animals, birds, or people—are always for a similar reason. They go where the food is more plentiful, or the weather survivable. We move to where the jobs are, to feed our families.

A recent news program I watched explained how the migration of African Americans in the early 1900s to Chicago influenced the civil rights movement and the Democratic Party. Movement matters!

Movement isn’t usually a whim, like it was for my sister and I when we decided to come back to Kansas for a summer or a year—who knew?  

When I bought the little house in Ramona on Main St., I was thinking of it as a safe haven in the country. If anyone needed a place to stay for a while, this would be the place.  If I no longer could afford to live in California, after a divorce, this would be the place.  If I needed a simpler spot as I grew older, away from traffic and congestion, how much quieter could it get than Ramona?

While we were deciding this move, I didn’t think of it as migration. It was an adventure. But truth is, we migrated back to our families beginning place, as surely as the Purple Martin’s return to their beginning site, in A.V.’s yard.

My parents migrated from Ramona to Lodi, California—following relatives who’d made the trip before them to grow grapes instead of corn in Kansas.  They were in search of a job.  And the need for a job eventually drove them back to Kansas, on to college, and forced a never-ending cycle of moves from Kansas to Colorado, to Washington state, Oregon and then full circle back to Ramona in their last years.

I don’t know if they saw themselves as “migrating,” although they surely were. Once again, the reason was job opportunities and advancements. 

It was the same for my husband, in a similar field of endeavor. Each move, or migration, promised something better, and so we went from spot to spot in Colorado and then to California, the so-called “Promised Land.”

I’m always impressed, and so grateful, for younger generations who decide NOT to migrate. And, there are those who migrate briefly to get their education and then purposefully come back to their hometown to raise a family.

There are also many who stayed right where they began, never leaving—even for a brief time.  My own daughter is like that in California.  I don’t believe she has ever dreamed of living anywhere else besides the beautiful Napa Valley.  It’s “home” to her even though it has become a tourist destination.  The wine industry is not why she is there.  She has history in this place. It is where she is rooted.  The challenge is to be able to afford to live in an area that has become more and more expensive.

People my age usually move to be near or to help family members.  My cousin did a full-circle migration.  He moved in his 20s from Ramona to Colorado, and then, years later, returned to Kansas to live near his kids when he retired.

When I came from California back to Kansas, I didn’t see myself as a migrant. I was coming back to the spot where I began, to the place where my aunts and uncles still lived, where my grandparents had lived and were now buried. “You’re not a move-in,” Aunt Gertie would say. “You have history here. You are just coming back.”

I’m not sure how long someone needs to live in a community before they belong.  I suppose generations have to change right before your eyes, so that you are no longer a move-in.

My sister and I have now seen two generations born in Ramona. I now have children of the first kids I taught art to at Centre in my classes.  It’s fun to have that kind of history in a place.  Having family nearby increases that sense of belonging.

Last week, I drove out to get corn at Jirak’s and I saw boys from my art classes working after school—picking pumpkins, tomatoes and corn. As they drove through the yard, they waved.

One called out, “Hi, Pat.” and I waved and smiled.  Let’s hope these good kids never have to migrate to find jobs!  For sure, they are learning one of the most important things: how to work!  I hope that’s the first step toward guaranteeing they will be able to spend another day in the country!

Last modified Sept. 18, 2019

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