Life has a way of casting us adrift. Sometimes we are violently ripped from our moorings: a divorce, the death of someone dearly loved, or a cross-country move. Other times it is subtler: perhaps a job change, or the loss of a friendship that quietly but surely unravels the ropes that kept us firmly docked to home, sanity, and normalcy.
Once out on the water, we do as most castaways do---we panic, we search the skies for navigation aids, we peer into inky blackness looking for rescue. When none comes, we assume the worse, that we are indeed all alone and left for dead. In the midst of our personal hell we lose sight, not only of the shore but also of the tiniest black dot signaling the presence of land or of a friendly face and, thus, salvation from our current state. Like Tom Hanks in the movie Castaway, we become desperate enough to befriend a battered volleyball and pull out our own teeth.
We forget that somewhere in the world there is a place where people love us and are praying for our safe return. While we are bobbing hopelessly on churning seas, trying desperately to save ourselves, grabbing to this holey piece of driftwood or that rotting barrel to stay afloat, someone somewhere is keeping watch, holding a vigil, manning a light and shining it our way, showing us the way home.
And whatever it is that finally brings us there, whether it is a friendly current or the prayers of those who love us, or both, we fall into our loved one's arms, sunburned to a crisp, our lips cracked, our fingernails dirty and bleeding. We at long last drop anchor and come ashore to sun-warmed strawberries, rhubarb muffins, clean crisp sheets, and kitchens smelling of homemade pizzas and soap and yeast rolls and decades of wood fires. And though we certainly deserve it, no one bludgeons us about why we didn't tell anyone where we were, or why on earth we set sail in the first place.
Instead, our prodigal selves are taken in, given the best beds, our wounds gently covered in salve. Though we have been gone a long time and our bodies bear the scars of our travels, at last we know we are home. The woodsy smells of balsam fir, the sea smells of fish and seaweed and fog, the homemade raspberry pies sitting on a grandmother's counter, the rooms of loving faces, the laughter, and all the old stories tell us just one thing: