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  • Writer's pictureShainna M. Callaway

5,432 Miles Later

Updated: Mar 29, 2020

My family is finally settling into place after an arduous journey across the Atlantic Ocean from Caiazzo, Italy (be still my heart!) to Arkansas, USA. What an adventure it has been!

First thing I would like to address is sorrow and gratitude. Moving overseas has meant I had to leave behind all the plants I had nurtured in our wonderful home. I am truly flattered and grateful that there were so many people that asked for our houseplants to join their households across Italy. I am especially humbled and grateful that our landlord told us they will tend and care for the ones we planted and left behind. It has always been a hard pill to swallow that I have yet to keep my plants for the durations of their lives. I have grieved baby plumeria trees that I grew from seed and left in the care of someone that abandoned them after a contentious divorce. I gave my Japanese houseplants to a friend that told me months after I left that they had all died from "the heat of the patio" which I took as, "I neglected indoor houseplants by leaving them outside and likely never watered them as they received direct sunlight all day long because I don't know the first thing about plants. AKA my bad." There are so many times where I wondered what will happen to these plants that I have loved and then regrettably had to say my goodbyes to them anyway. This heartache I hope to not have again.

The lavender and sage bed, the hydrangea row, the everblooming spider plants, and my daughter's rose bush.
The lavender and sage bed, the hydrangea row, the everblooming spider plants, and my daughter's rose bush.

The journey back to our homeland itself was broken up into segments. The first leg after traveling from Europe was held in Pensacola, Florida, USA. We literally put our feet in the water on a beach in Pozzuoli and then in Pensacola within the same week. It is a heartwarming memory to cherish of our trip seeing as how this simple act has been with us since our wedding vows were made with our feet in the waters surrounding Guam. When we left the US for Italy, we also dipped our toes in the Atlantic Ocean in both Virginia Beach and Southern Maryland to receive Poseidon's blessings on our ventures. It's a family tradition that I hope stays a comfort during times of unpredictability and high stress.

Pozzouli beach view and Pensacola beach view
From Pozzouli, Italy, to Pensacola, Florida, USA in January 2020
A southern live oak is stretching over a small pond and being braced by a steel post.
This photo was taken in Bellingrath Gardens in Theodore, Alabama in January 2020

In Pensacola, I was able to reconnect with the

southern live oaks of the area. I missed these giants, and it gave me a nostalgic feeling of homecoming being amongst them again. I never knew how much they meant to me until my heart melted at the sight of them. I introduced my children to tree climbing with them, and the kids took to it like part of their genetic makeup is from an ape. These lovable live oaks are the pride of the South; icons telling me that I am finally where I belong.

Part of the boardwalk in the Audubon Bird Sanctuary on Dauphin Island.
This photo was taken at the Audubon Bird Santuary on Dauphin Island, Alabama, USA in January 2020

Pensacola is down the road and across the state line from another area where I have spent so many happy moments in the Gulf of Mexico’s Mobile Bay. During our trip, we were able to reconnect with my best friend who is also my children’s godmother. We visited Dauphin Island for an alligator scavenger hunt around the Audobon Bird Sanctuary. I was able to share a lovely afternoon with Rachael in Bellingrath Gardens just strolling and discussing plants and horticulture. In the warm 50-75 degree winter weather, we witnessed the camellias and azaleas had decided that they were up for the job of displaying blooms throughout the end of January.

Three different camellias found at Bellingrath Gardens.
These camellias were found at Bellingrath Gardens in Theodore, Alabama, USA in January 2020

It was unfortunately too cold for the pitcher plants, though. In my youth, I was oblivious of their beauty and rarity. It was not until I had a brief observational stint on the social media giant, Twitter, that I learned that the white pitcher plants I grew up experimenting on were considered treasurable around the rest of the world. Fortunately, a park ranger at Fort Barrancas was nice enough to provide some directions so that the next year when we return I will know precisely where to go to find them in abundance. I look forward to that visit!

A cat lounging in a window with houseplants.
Our kitten has fallen in love with Kalenkyogi and Tallulily.

Rachael sent us along to our next destination with plants from her garden. She had told me a story about how her mother was so sad hearing how I have had to leave my plants behind. She said they both discussed how they would not be able to part with theirs which made me smile because only a gardener could understand that kind of bond. I named the plants after her adorable dogs, Tallulah and Yogi; Kalenkyogi a kalanchoe and Tallulily a spider lily. It’s such a lovely gesture being given a plant. I hope these two stay with me for a long and lustrous life!

The drive up to Arkansas was blissfully without issue. I was excited when we crossed the state line. Arkansas also has really nice, clean welcome centers with plenty of pamphlets for the travelers to collect. I stocked up on enough swag to keep myself busy for months just learning what this wonderful state has to offer in our lives ahead.

The amount alone of state parks to visit is making me consider the costs and ease of an RV verse tents and all the accompanying gear. With a long lapse in our home furniture and household goods delivery, we have begun our acquisition of outdoor gear already with some mighty impressive camping mats. There are some geniuses out there producing 1-2” portable roll up camping mats that rival the comforts of our 10” memory foam mattresses! How on Earth is this even possible? Science and engineering amaze me. They are reminiscent of the unbelievably comfy Japanese futons my cousins provided us with whenever we were able to visit their Nagano cabin except these camping mats are not plush like pillows and yet somehow they provide better spine support.

In the first month after arrival, I have just begun to get an idea of all that may be coming soon. It is definitely winter here during winter months. We even saw a light dusting of snow one morning with snow flurries that never quite stuck all day long. The trees are almost all bare and mysterious as to what the spring will bring. There are ducks and geese flying daily, but I can’t tell if they are coming, going, or just sticking around. The grounds are naturally brown and dormant. Everything awaits the coming spring, and in the eagerness of it’s arrival I am collecting locations and events in my itinerary like a hoarder not being able to stop the manic joy I feel inside.

How grateful I am that our lives have brought us here to the Natural State. May God gives us a purpose that allows our roots to take hold and our children to flourish. What a land to live in filled with all this natural beauty and southern hospitality. What more could one ask for in life?

Much love and kind regards, Shainna 🌼

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