• Various/Onna Carr

Shelter From the Storms of Life

Updated: Oct 28, 2019

Post by Onna Carr

I grew up in the Midwest on a three-acre farm. The Dutch-styled farmhouse in which we lived was the last house within city limits on one side of the town with crop ground on three sides of the property and a view of the surrounding hills and trees in the distance. We raised chickens, rabbits, sheep, cats, and a couple of dogs while there. I spent my summers and late afternoons during the school year soaking up the earth and the sky, building propulsion experiments, repeatedly roping a forked stump, climbing my pear trees, braiding the grasses, and setting up my PVC teepee with a nice sawhorse and sheet porch addition out underneath the blue skies and obliging ash trees. I would imagine what this land looked like two-hundred years before with a Native American village in our garden, and I wondered whether or not we had a mammoth skeleton under our house. These sights and the flights of imagination they fueled are what have in part helped me to develop my sense of shelter from the storms of life.

My memories of the sweeping hills, the waving grasses, and the small towns with the landscape they paint in my mind are memories that calm me when life's storms attempt to crash upon me. When slightly (or greatly) troubled, I remember the beauty and majesty of rolling clouds above me or the glory and peacefulness of the shining sun on the rolling hills of a sea of grass. When the storms of life rage, and I need shelter from them, I sometimes recall the glories of a soft spring rain, the splendor of an autumn on the plains, and the clear crispness of a winter on the prairie with the nights full of stars with their endless tides of an unending ocean in a wide galaxy of a Midwestern sky.

Shelter from the storms of life can be different things to different people. Shelter can be a place, a person, a belief, or a combination of all three. Shelter can be animate. Shelter can also be inanimate. However, no matter how shelter is defined, shelter represents comfort. For me, one of the most tangible examples of personal shelter aside from the open prairie with its rolling hills that surrounds me still is a table with generous seating: a leveling plain where family and friends may gather together in the security of the familiar, the peace of plenty, and restfulness of relationships.

A table and chairs are welcoming pieces of furniture around which and in which people can gather defining a place of comfort not merely for the body; but also, for the soul. A dining area, if properly planned and arranged, in spirit as well as layout, is a place of shelter from the storms of life. Hopefully, though hosts and guests may not always agree, around a table they accept one another as they are. The first memory I have of being seated around a table is of the large, family dinners I shared at my great-grandparents' farm in Kansas. To have four generations gathered together with family tensions being tucked away amidst Church-Lady Dinner Rolls, mashed potatoes, turkey, and white fudge is a memory of shelter and comfort against the storms of life that I have carried with me ever since and will continue to hold dear.

Since the memory of my grandparents' family dinners, I have had many memories, around many tables, in many places, but there was something about that farm in the middle of Nowhere, which was the heartbeat of Somewhere, that remains a touchstone that I reach in the pockets of my brain and finger often still. I believe that shelter can be a place, yes, but that shelter also comes in the form of the people who enter our lives and is also us in the lives of people we meet and interact with: together enriching one another's lives and making touchstones with the memories that we create and share with each other. Despite the passage of time my idea of shelter, and likewise, comfort, has altered little since my earliest childhood memories. Now, when the storms of life rage, or I feel unable to alter the situation in front of me, I feast my eyes upon the open prairie with its rolling hills and picturesque skies. Openness is one of my shelters from the storms of life, as well as my faith, my family, and my love of food that I have gathered around many tables in many comfortable kitchens.

As I whip up an apple cake in my antique, peach, luster-ware bowl from my great-grandmother's recipe or apple cinnamon scones from the eight-hundred pounds of apples we harvested back at our farm, I feel good knowing that come tea or suppertime, we will gather together to eat and to visit. Though much in this world is not ideal, as my family and I gather around our table, we become more confident we can weather the current storms of life here on the plains with a hearty scone or a slice of cake delicately perched on an antique plate as we look out of our kitchen window on this shifting sea of grass knowing we will ride out this storm simply by being together and sharing a moment of ease with grateful spirits for what we already have.

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