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A lifetime ago, I grew up in these blue mountains on the border between the Carolinas.

After college, I moved to California, to raise a family and live the life of my dreams.

I've often come "home" for visits. Too often, for funerals. But this trip, if partly for work, was mostly for pleasure.

It began with a speaking engagement in Winston Salem, N.C., where my column has been carried for years. People I'd never met asked to see photos of my grandkids. It felt (I say with a wink) like a family reunion ... without the fistfights.

After the talk, and a lot of hugs, I drove 150 miles south and rented a cabin on a lake in Landrum, S.C., the town where I grew up. My sister wanted me to stay at her place, but I said I had to work. When I stay with her, not much work gets done.

For the past four days, I've spent a little time working and a lot of time with family and friends. And with beavers and ducks and geese and squirrels and leaves turning red and gold.

My dad loved to fish. He wanted me to love it, too. I never did. But I did learn to love the peace that can be found sitting beside still water.

Some of us, maybe all, feel a physical connection to nature — especially to the land where we grew up — that is as real and as comforting as anything we feel for flesh and blood.

That doesn't mean we like mountains more than people. It just means that, to feel whole, we need time with both.

I wanted time with family and friends. But I also wanted time alone with these mountains, with red dirt and still water and a full Carolina moon — and with leaves that are dying in a dazzling blaze of glory.

The day after I arrived, my sister and I picked up our brother in Spartanburg, and took him to Wade's, his favorite restaurant. Joe is blind, but knows the menu by heart.

"I'll have meatloaf, mac 'n' cheese, macaroni salad and cole slaw," he told the server, "and sweet iced tea, please."

When the food came, Joe said grace. "Heavenly Father, thank you that I can be with both of my sisters today. Bless this food to our bodies and us to your service. In Jesus' name, amen."

We ate and talked for an hour, telling stories, old and new.

That evening, my nephew's daughter, who trains horses for a living, and her brother, a high school senior, showed me videos of their rodeo competitions and talked about their love for riding and roping and occasionally getting thrown to the ground.

Yesterday, with a chill in the air, I stayed in the cabin and sat at a window watching shadows of clouds and geese and gusts of wind glide across the lake.

Last night, my sister and I had dinner with friends we've known almost forever and reminisced about others who are no longer with us. Then I drove back to the lake, bundled up in a blanket and sat on the dock in the dark, counting stars on the water and blessings in my life.

This morning, around 4, I awoke in bed to an old familiar sound: rain falling on a tin roof. I wish you could've heard it.

I drifted back to sleep for a while, dreaming dreams I can't recall. Finally, I got up to make coffee and watched the mist rise off the lake. It's been raining all day. I've been writing. Writing and rain make good company.

Tonight I'll have one last supper with my sister, and we'll say a long, hard goodbye. Then tomorrow, Lord willing, I'll go back to my other home, to my husband and children and grandchildren and friends, to the life and the land I love on the coast of California.

But I'll take with me the gift of the time I've spent here with family and friends, a good lake for fishing (even if I don't fish) and these old blue mountains.

Home isn't a person or place you visit. It's a feeling you carry with you in your heart.

Write to Sharon Randall at P.O. Box 413, Pacific Grove, Calif. 93950.

Style on 11/05/2018

Print Headline: Visit back 'home' recalls childhood

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