Flowers and cattle call me to a home where I have never been. I miss the smell of the sea, the slope of steep mountains, the tremors of the earth. I miss how companionable a herd can be. I miss the home where I have never been.

Fial is called the Blue Island of the Azores because my people planted hydrangeas that spread and bloom among the cattle paddocks. My people? Two Fernandes brothers married two Pivia sisters in the 1870s and landed in San Fransico Bay.

Growing up, I embraced my Portuguese heritage — linguica, pinto beans with cumino, sopas, tending cattle, and growing flowers. Old timers who still spoke the language taught me to swear and called me “Portagee Red” because of my auburn hair coloring. The hair, it turns out, was not an anomaly. Years later I’d discover I’m only 4 percent Portuguese by DNA.

Mostly, I’m Scots, Irish, and English with a smattering of Basque, Danish, Portuguese, Norwegian, German, and 1 percent unexplained Russian and 1 percent Balkin. I don’t even know what a Balkin is. Clearly, I’m your typical Heinz 57 mutt of an American. But as a child and teenager, I identified strongly as an Azorean buckaroo. That was my heritage; the Azores my homeland.

And that’s not all. Throughout my life, I’ve known suadade — what Brazilians often refer to as the melancholy of the Portuguese, the wayfarers who often grew homesick and passed down that feeling to descendants. I was taught that suadade was specifically homesickness for the mountains. The Azores are a volcanic archipelago thus the entire nine islands rise as sea mountains. Along with cattle and flowers, it was home.

Where is home? What makes a home? Is it a place or a relationship?

I’ve often encountered this question, having moved 22 times in 35 years of marriage. I’ve been without a home, welcomed into the homes of others, and watched my children create homes in different ways. One lives on a mountainous arctic island (how very cold and Azorean); another farms and tends flowers; another is following a more traditional path making home with a baby on the way. There is no one way to “home.”

Yet, we humans have so much heart and brain-space dedicated to home-space.

My eldest, is going back to the homeland. She’s the first De Abreau to return to the Azores since my mother’s mother’s mother left. No one on my father’s side has returned, either. In a lovely twist of serendipity, a local restaurant is so happy with my daughter’s farm-fresh triple-washed salad and edible flowers for fancy cocktails that she and her husband are invited to spend a foodie week abroad with the owners. It just so happens to be in the Azores. Allison is going home to see where her ancestors once grew flowers.

This week, over at the Dream Tending Institute, Dr. Stephen Aizenstat discussed the collective psyche of home. Home is like a call, a journey. What if what we call the hero’s journey is really a path to find home, or to give us meaning? I think of the Portuguese melancholy, suadade, as a similar call to find home. A call to journey. A call to find something more than past flowers, cattle, and mountains — to find something meaningful about our lives.

You can tend a story the way dreamers tend dreams. Start by making associations. Allow your imagination to create an image of home then allow someone (a character) to step into that place. Ask if you have permission to work with them (yeah, dream tenders ask permission and it seems foreign to us creative writers who apparently kidnap characters who show up to use them in stories). If you want to learn more about dream tending, anyone can join the Tending Tuesdays sessions. Dreams, like stories, appreciate community.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you about the chickadees. They’ve returned home to Roberts Street.

August 15, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about the journey home. Who is going home? Or are they in search of a future home or ancestral roots? Think of home as a life lived — adventures, relationships, accumulations. What makes home worth the journey? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by August 21, 2023. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Thursday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
  3. A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
  4. Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

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