This summer I stumbled on the tropical conservatory at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point – it’s small but intensely beautiful, and loaded with tropical fruits and flowers. Walking in the door is like stepping through a wardrobe out of Wisconsin and into a tropical Narnia – the air and the orchids and the citrus fruits and the color saturation all change from the upper Midwest’s gardening Zone 4 into at least Zone 10 or 11. I’ve seen orchids and the citrus fruits on trees, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a chenille plant. And this one was thriving.

Greenhouses – tropical conservatories – are magical.

It took me years to learn to live in a small midwestern town, and a lot of the time, I still don’t get it right. There are things I really love about our small town, but sometimes I do feel as out of place as a chenille plant in Wisconsin. Like me, my husband grew up in major cities around the world, and I suspect sometimes he feels the same way.

I’m thankful that our children have thrived in our small town. They can ride their bikes to the town pool – and the first time they did, neighbors texted to let us know that they had seen our kids go by on bikes and would keep an eye out for them. There are some limitations – for example, there’s not a bassoon teacher in town, or a fencing club – but the opportunities that are here have always come with wonderful and caring teachers and coaches and mentors and friends.

And I’m thankful for work trips that take me to larger cities often enough to remember how amazing it is to have a huge variety of restaurants and museums and neighborhoods… and also what it is like to drive in serious traffic, or pay eight dollars for a cup of coffee.

I do get wanderlust, and sometimes I want to stamp the small town moss off my feet. And I also know that I can also know that I can curl into our home, and the little greenhouse we’ve made of it with each other and with our children. We are here, but we are here together, and we can bloom exactly where we are planted.