I have an omnivorous attachment to place.
I’ve never been able to just answer the ubiquitous question, “Where are you from?” I usually stumble around, spitting out the general region with a dismissive shrug. I have moved a fair bit. Sometimes the person asking wants a specific address, sometimes they only want a country. Even this gets awkward as I am from the US but my people are from the old country and that narative still resonates with me. A few people get this but most don’t anymore.
I recently had the emotionally mixed experience of going back to the place I should probably consider my hometown for a funeral. Because of the distance, it has become the place I go for funerals and to see my brother’s family for incredibly short visits.
It’s the place that I spent many of my formative years, as if any years are somehow not formative. It is where I first formed unbreakable, non-familial attachments. It was there I started to assert myself as an individual and made my first, failed attempts at fitting in.
On this visit to my old community, shockingly unchanged in the last decade or two, I realized I don’t have a place I call home.
I was cut from this cloth but I no longer fit it.
It wasn’t the place to which I felt attached, it was only the people. The river could have been any farm country river, the fields any fields and the sleepy town like thousands of others. I didn’t relish the the kinds of memories that make a place sentimental and I felt no pull to return for more than a visit.
The realization was sad, like perhaps I was missing something or failing my roots, but also liberating. I could let go of the guilt I harbored for not feeling more bound to the area. In truth, don’t feel any strong connection to most of the places I have lived.
It isn’t that I am bereft of sentimental attachment to some locations. In fact, place is like music to me. At its best it speaks to the soul, moves you, works with your natural rhythm. At its worst, it can irritate, make you uncomfortable, take your peace, and even be confusing.
Some waters in the verdant Appalachians feel like home at first exposure, as if a drop of me and a drop of the river were once in the same cloud and can recognize each other.
I’ve always felt a strong attachment to Chicago, a place I have never lived but lived near enough, when I was small, to know well. It’s the base of my father’s family and holds a visceral appeal to me.
I feel attached to the state where my children were born and where my husband and I finally started to grow up. The grass there feels like home.
New Orleans is the place we go to play and relax. Ancient and close to other worlds, it’s just ours, despite the crowds. The area is at once deeply spiritual and relaxed, reverent and wild. Some cities are just familiar. They are easy to learn and comfortable from the first introduction. NOLA is like that for us.
Nashville is our someday home, we suspect. Not that we plan to live in the city but we like to visit it as a kind of home base in a part of the country we enjoy. We meet with friends from all over the country there. Like New Orleans, I have favorite places to go and it somehow feels like I am a local.
But, as much as I love these places, home is usually in the soil somewhere or wherever I roam on the back of a horse. I can’t breathe pavement for long.
Every moment I spend outdoors on my farm or with my amazing neighbors makes our farm home. The sweat, the experiences, the sheer beauty of this place that overwhelms me regularly all make it home. It is here that I returned to the land, so-to-speak, learned to leave my old paradigms and think for myself, and it is here that the first dog of my adult life is buried. Should we have to leave, I will go, leaving a bit of me here and there and everywhere.
Each of these places is only a part of my home. I’m without a singular root or future.
Place is something uniquely fixed and yet fluid in my mind.
I don’t know why some places are part of the picture of my puzzle and others are clearly not, as though the energy has to mesh with my own like some sort of pheromone reaction.
Life is a recipe, terroir at it’s core. Contrasting and complimentary flavors mix to make something special and, hopefully, amazing. Some places make me deeply sad and I acknowledge it and avoid them when possible, always spitting them out quickly after an encounter. Some places feel foreign no matter the technical familiarity I have with them. There are places I have literally forgotten I lived until someone reminded me, my time there like eating paper mache paste. None of them work in my recipe.
Other places add to my life and fit who I am or who I’m becoming. And there are some I’ve never even been but still feel hold a part of me. They are part of my recipe whether I have added them yet or not.
Happy eating, Katy