Life in Photos, Poetry & Words, Travel/Moving

On Moving to Tennessee

Sunset comes in like a whisper, hushing the robin’s monologue, stretching and bending the shadows until, at last, nothing speaks save the skies. They breathe deep navy words — slowly, confidently, and silence settles down. The lamp glows warmly, inside, and I pull my legs up over the pine bench and settle down into the posture of writing as the last remnants of Jasmine rice and watermelon dissipate into the air.

I don’t know what Tennessee smells like, yet. Florida was a cauldron, with thick air pressed closed to the ground, rippling intermittently through the Spanish moss and magnolia. And I miss the sea-salt air of the Atlantic, with its tangled seaweed and glinting jellyfish tossed up in the surf. California, too, brought me scorched pine-resin September skies, rich sweetness of strawberries wilting in the thin dry air, and a whiff of tar along the freeway as I sped toward the windswept Pacific cliffs of Bodega Head, drinking  juniper and cypress into my lungs.

But I don’t know Tennessee’s signature scent.

I walked through the plant nursery last night, ivy tumbling at my feet and ferns bursting from their swinging baskets. I buried my face in the mint and lavender, and ran my fingers through the Irish moss. This one smells like the coast, I said, and that one is pure ocean. But what’s in this new landlocked soil that’ll unfurl its leaves and wind its way around my heart?

Cedar in the air will bring me to the pebbled shores of the Great Lakes, every single time.

And the syrupy incense of wisteria rewinds me all the way to Taborska Cesta, Ljubljana, where I can still see the trail of ants parading up the vine.

But what

years from now

will bring me back here when I close my eyes?

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Life in Photos, Poetry & Words, Travel/Moving

Nashville or Bust

Oaxacaborn is moving to Nashville!

We’re moving, friends, in a whirlwind.

Josiah was laid off last fall, and now, suddenly, he’s got a new job in Nashville.

The cloud is moving. [1]

Seven years ago this month, I held a one-way ticket to Orlando, stepped on a plane with a (very!) infant Aveline, and touched down in this subtropical land where palm trees sway and hurricane winds rage.

Eleven years ago, I packed two suitcases, took my last $600 out of the bank, and started my life over in California..again.

Fourteen years ago, I climbed up into a Jeep and drove away from the golden valley, drove away for days and days, until the radio crumbled into static and everything slowed, frozen in time and ice.

Eighteen years ago, we’d all driven that path in reverse.

Twenty-seven years ago, we escaped war.

Exodus and genesis.

My life has been wave after wave after wave of exodus and genesis. Exodus: the departure; and genesis, the rebirth.

The exodus involves a period of parched land, a wandering, a time where it seems you’ll never land again. But after the night, genesis dawns, and all is reborn. The roots begin to make their way down the deep green soil, the leaves unfurl, and everything within creation looks up to the light.

This is the way of Life.

This the way of Redemption, and the golden thread that finds its shining way through all the twisted tapestries.

This moment, too, is part of that tapestry. This set of goodbyes. This set of all the movements one has to go through to complete an exodus. The last one, the next one,  this one.

Every one.

Every era.

Every epoch.

Every color, every twist, every knot, every cut — they’re all necessary. They’re all needed.

Now, we’re needed in Tennessee. The boxes are all stacked around me. I don’t know why yet, just like I didn’t understand why seven, eleven, fourteen, eighteen, and twenty-seven years ago.

But that’s not for me to know, yet. It’s for me to follow my God through the exodus, and await the genesis with open arms.

I’ll be there soon.

And then we’ll all sing, along with Johnny Cash,

“I sure found a place I belong…
Proud as we can be
to live in Tennessee…”

P.S. I took the above #nofilter photo while driving through Nashville during a cross-country move nine years ago (that’s right, the above litany of moves wasn’t a complete list). How wonderful, then, that I should stumble upon this photo again today.  Nashville or bust!

Life in Photos, Poetry & Words

This Whole Land of our Sojourn is my Home

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This Whole Land of My Sojourn is my Home
This Whole Land of My Sojourn is my Home

This summer, we whisked ourselves away to the rugged northern wilds of California, Minnesota, and Michigan.  On the West Coast, we ducked into a secret redwood garden awash with Rivendell lights; in Michigan, we built campfires on the edges of a 19th century settlement, and — while reading Amory Blaine’s exploits in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise — drove through both Amery and Blaine.

The sun rose and set, for me, in  four states on three of this country’s borders, over two different oceans, on the edge of one Great Lake, and even — thirty thousand feet aloft — over dozens and dozens of sparkling little towns.

I highlighted as many lines in Steinbeck’s Travels With Charley in Search of America as my digital swipe would allow, then watched them all vanish in a burst of pixels, as the server sucked the virtual book back in after three loaned weeks. I sorted through old family documents, scratched away in fountain ink, faded proof of all the secrets and genes tumbling down through the generations.

It’s temporary glory, to put words in Steinbeck’s mouth.

It’s all a temporary shimmer of the eternal.

“To find not only that this bedlam of color was true but that the pictures were pale and inaccurate translations, was to me startling. I can’t even imagine the…colors when I am not seeing them…. ‘It is a glory,’ she said, ‘and can’t be remembered, so that it always comes as a surprise.'”

It can’t be remembered.

It always comes as a surprise.

This Whole Land of My Sojourn is my Home

I belong nowhere, and everywhere. I come home through so many different doors, walk with a sigh across so many different thresholds.

Sarah Dessen rattles her way across the keyboard onto the novel’s page to tell us all, “Home [i]sn’t a set house, or a single town on a map. It [i]s wherever the people who loved you [a]re, whenever you were together. Not a place, but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go.”

This shell of mine is stained with the red clay of Oaxaca and the Sierra Nevada, gilded in copper patina from the Ljubljanica River, dusted over from the kiln-like heat of the Sacramento Valley,  preserved in the subzero howl of the northern wilds, and sloshing from the perpetual rain of these subtropics.

It’s always with me.

And it always comes as a surprise.

This Whole Land of My Sojourn is my Home

I don’t know how I would handle having my roots all smashed together and compacted into one tiny plot of earth. I wasn’t made for roots like that. I was made for the kind that stretch and strain and burrow, through clay and sand and heat and rain, putting a little branch down here and other down halfway across the globe.

Steinbeck felt it through and through. “When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would this itch. When years described me as mature, the remedy prescribed was middle age. In middle age I was assured greater age would calm my fever and now that I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job. Nothing has worked. Four hoarse blasts of a ships’s whistle still raise the hair on my neck and set my feet to tapping. The sound of a jet, an engine warming up, even the clopping of shod hooves on pavement brings on the ancient shudder, the dry mouth and vacant eye, the hot palms and the churn of stomach high up under the rib cage. In other words, once a bum always a bum. I fear this disease incurable. I set this matter down not to instruct others but to inform myself….A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we not take a trip; a trip takes us.”

The faded old documents I sorted this summer traced a journey across the Atlantic, on both sides of the family, through Ellis Island. As a child, I flew this route over their ghosts by air; less than a hundred years earlier, great grandparents on both sides of the family took this route by sea.

This Whole Land of My Sojourn is my Home

This Whole Land of My Sojourn is my Home

Neruda once said it was our destiny to love and say goodbye. I think it’s our destiny to love and say hello, over and over and over again — in all the “places with no weight” as Octavio Paz would say —

in all our many homes, knowing that He’s put eternity in our hearts [1], knowing all the time that we’re heading Home no matter how many different places we land,

in this, the land of our sojourn.


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Babiekins Magazine, Life in Photos

INTERIOR DESIGN :: Home Office and Homeschool Room (in an Apartment with Limited Space)

Oaxacaborn's Homeschool Room (as featured in Babiekins Magazine print edition)

Oaxacaborn's Homeschool Room (as featured in Babiekins Magazine print edition)

Oaxacaborn's Homeschool Room (as featured in Babiekins Magazine print edition)

Several months ago, I had the exciting opportunity to style a practical workspace for Babiekins Magazine; one that would function both for working from home and homeschooling. (Previously, I had styled a global-themed kids bedroom, too.) Since we live in an apartment, I didn’t have a dedicated room to serve as a home office and school room, so I cleared one wall of our living room instead. And I really didn’t want it to be a primary color menagerie of school posters.

There are a few things I really like about this space. Of course the huge wall map is right up at the top of the list! And I love the big white rug to cover the rental carpet. But I also really love how the wardrobe from IKEA hides away the printer and all the messy office/school supplies — leaving room for “pretty things, my dear”. (Oliver Twist, anyone?) And the pine bench, another IKEA find, is amazingly comfortable, and is the perfect arrangement for my daughter and to work side-by-side.

You might notice there aren’t many books in these photos — our bookcases are actually stashed in various places throughout our apartment, so they didn’t all fit in these photos. But boy, do we have a lot of books. A LOT. (My husband is legitimately concerned about this. Don’t tell him each Sonlight core adds 50 or more, give or take a dozen.)

It’s no secret I’m in love with words. I love to try to untangle the words in my mind, and coax them into sentences no one has ever read before. I love to read the expertly-woven words of not just classic authors, but contemporary voices, too. The middle ages print from the late 1400s — showing the arduous process of writing a book in the 1100s — reminds me that it hasn’t always been easy for one’s voice to be heard. This reminder, along with the “Let Your Light Shine In the Darkness” poster, spurs me on to keep speaking out.

I’m so pleased with the way our homeschool room / home office turned out — it’s such a happy, inspiring, wonderful space. (All styling by me, Gina Munsey; and thanks to Priscilla Barbosa Photography for the images!)

Oaxacaborn's Homeschool Room (as featured in Babiekins Magazine print edition)

Oaxacaborn's Homeschool Room (as featured in Babiekins Magazine print edition)

Oaxacaborn's Homeschool Room (as featured in Babiekins Magazine print edition)

Oaxacaborn's Homeschool Room (as featured in Babiekins Magazine print edition)

Oaxacaborn's Homeschool Room (as featured in Babiekins Magazine print edition)

Oaxacaborn's Homeschool Room (as featured in Babiekins Magazine print edition)

Oaxacaborn's Homeschool Room (as featured in Babiekins Magazine print edition)

Oaxacaborn's Homeschool Room (as featured in Babiekins Magazine print edition)

Oaxacaborn's Homeschool Room (as featured in Babiekins Magazine print edition)

Oaxacaborn's Homeschool Room (as featured in Babiekins Magazine print edition)

Gina_Munsey_Sonlight_5

Oaxacaborn's Homeschool Room (as featured in Babiekins Magazine print edition)

You can catch this room in the special “#SCHOOLKINS: Books, Bugs & Discovery” interior design section of the 7th print issue of Babiekins Magazine, available here.  And if you have questions about any of the items shown, just leave a comment! :)


DESK :: Malm, c/o IKEA Orlando
WALL MAP :: National Geographic, via The Map Center

MAP RAILS :: c/o Posterhanger
PINE WARDROBE :: Nornäs used as bookshelf, c/o IKEA Orlando
PINE BENCH :: Nornäs, c/o IKEA Orlando
MOROCCAN SHAG RUG :: c/o Rugs USA
GLASS JAR :: Korken, via IKEA Orlando
CERAMIC VASE :: Stylist’s Own, from Mexico City
BAMBOO SPEAKERS :: c/o Otis & Eleanor
METAL LAMP and EDISON BULB :: c/o Lamps Plus
LET LIGHT SHINE PRINT :: Naptime Diaries
DESKTOP CACTUS & TROPICAL PLANT ::  Lowe’s
SPACEPACK BACKPACKS :: c/o lukids.ru
PRINT RAILS :: c/o Posterhanger
MIDDLE AGES PRINT  :: Matthaeus Platearius Writing “The Book of Simple Medicines” via AllPosters.com
NICHOLAS NICKLEBY PRINT :: Book Cover Print via AllPosters.com
ROW OF 3 PRINTS :: Emily McDowell Studio and Jessica Sprague Printables
LAMP and SHADE :: Target
COWHIDE ::  Koldby, c/o IKEA Orlando
BOOKCASE :: Billy, via IKEA Orlando

PERCH CHAIR :: c/o Room & Board
STUDENT DESK :: Flash Furniture Desk with Metal Book Box, via Amazon

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Homeschooling, Life in Photos, Poetry & Words

Books, Books, Books: the Evolution of the Oaxacaborn Blog

Books, Books Books: The Evolution of the Oaxacaborn blog

When I started blogging publicly — over at Xanga, fourteen years ago! — I was in college, and blogged too many song lyrics and homework details. Then over the years, I moved back and forth across the country, working at sheet metal factory, a juvenile detention center, and an IT department, and wrote about all the ups and downs. When I became a mother, I even went through a phase where I predictably blogged about cloth diapers (I am so sorry). I’ve written about death, beauty, brokenness, joy — and interior design. And you’ve likely noticed that in the last few months, I’ve written a few longer pieces about homeschooling.

My blogging “methodology”, if you can call it that, hardly follows all the blogging advice. It’s always just followed the seasons of my life. But that’s the beautiful thing about life, too — it’s not stagnant.  It moves like a current. It flows, it goes through seasons, through changeable states of being. Way down at the bottom of this blog, in the footer, Anaïs Nin reminds me, “Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.”

Books, Books Books: The Evolution of the Oaxacaborn blog

I kind of feel like things are coming full circle for me, and it all has to do with books. As a girl, I devoured books, and read everything I could get my hands on. Now, it’s only April, and Aveline’s already read 130 books since the beginning of the year. So, you’ll probably be seeing a lot more posts about literature and children’s books, and more posts about homeschooling. (Although, this is no surprise if you follow me on Instagram @oaxacaborn). I have so many good books to share with you all, but I’ve been holding back, thinking for some reason that this isn’t the right place for it, and worried about losing followers. Well, that’s kind of ridiculous. Because when it comes right down to, perhaps, like Margaret Atwood said, “Perhaps, I write for no one. Perhaps for the same person children are writing for when they scrawl their names in the snow.”

I’m just thankful some of you keep following along as I scrawl in the snow.

Books, Books Books: The Evolution of the Oaxacaborn blog

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