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At Home in the Here and Not Yet

It has dawned a clear, crisp early November day at the Bluff following two days of gales on Lake Michigan. As I sit at my desk writing, Mark is out with his chainsaw helping saw up the neighbor’s fallen ash tree. The whipping wind pushed it right out by its roots.

There’s something doleful yet timeless about a tree’s newly exposed roots- it is death, and homelessness, and loss, and capitulation and rebirth all rolled into one.”

I have been thinking about home lately-all the places I have called home, making a new home here at the Bluff after pulling up our lives at Trout Creek by the roots, and all the years my heart was searching for a home when what it really needed was God himself.

Being at home is a sense, a feeling of being nurtured yet challenged, content yet ever searching, with a pillow for your head and loved ones within reach. I have been at home in hiking boots on the slopes of the Rocky Mountains, the rain forests of Costa Rica, and the stony paths of the French Alps. I once had a home in Wales for a semester, rope-climbing the steep cliffs that face the Irish Sea, and paddling the wild Welsh rivers. I have made my home in a flat in Paris, writing for a whole blessed month while my daughter was at work. I was at home for many years in my calling as a college professor, enjoying the gift that thousands of students unknowingly gave me to fill the emptiness of infertility.

Nowadays, having endured the moving of the house back from the bluff’s edge and reconstructing the entire lower level, we are finally settled into home at the Bluff. Since I was five years old, I knew I would live here someday. That is because it has always been the place I come back to; on this side of the river, this has always been my one true home. This is where I set down roots and made lifelong friends, clothed in the balm of nature’s call and care. Here, I am embedded in forest and dune, blissfully at home on the long, lonely stretches of beach with a cherished petoskey stone in my sandy pocket. Here is the delight of slowing down, of welcoming the unplanned coffee and conversation with a new friend, and of taking the time to read, and reread some timeless favorites.

We are one short step from heaven here, figuratively, and literally.

 I know full well that this home is as temporary as all the others.”

Even as I wait on God in prayer and obedience, he too waits for me to finish my upward climb to my last and forever home with him. On that day, that most glorious day, my physical body tumbled like a dead ash tree by the gales of age, my soul will be loosed to heaven, my new and forever home. I can’t know from this side of the river what that will be like, but I suspect the surprise outweighs the not-knowing.

Keep climbing-your home awaits.

Thanks for reading,

J.A.P. Walton, Ph.D.

Contact me at

Loon, Marriage, Petoskey Stone, Uncategorized

Hunting Petoskey Stones with the Loons

We are camping at Petoskey State Park in northern lower Michigan this week, on a shakedown cruise of our new (to us) RV. Located on Lake Michigan along a sandy strip that was once a tannery, the park is tucked into dunes that quickly transition into hemlock and beech forest. It also abuts a wonderful bike path called the Little Traverse Wheelway, which we rode north into Harbor Springs under a cloudless sky yesterday.

Today is as gray and rainy as yesterday was bright and clear. We hunted petoskey stones between downpours this morning, wading in 43 degree water (great therapy for pesky plantar fasciitis). Our bucket filled fast with over 100 stones. A loon swam along with us about 50 yards out, letting out one lone wail to let its mate know where it was.

I looked down the shoreline to watch my husband hunt stones. He was standing like a human question mark *, head bent, shoulders hunched, knee-deep in the mirror-calm melted ice. No need for him to yodel like the loon, he knew I was nearby. We have haunted these waters together for 45 years. We know each other so well, and share a simple but never stale delight when one of us finds a particularly beautiful petoskey stone.

Back at the picnic table, we sorted through stones and slugged down hot tea. Just one morning of many. Deeply satisfying. The rain resumed, a sky unburdened; a revelation of the simplicity of time spent side by side in unusually quiet waters at the edge of the whispering forest, like a loon pair with an oft-stamped passport of a long-married life together.

~J.A.P. Walton

* this analogy may be attributable to Jane Austen (cannot find the exact source)