Being here.

snowy backyard

I was born here. Raised here. And I have lived 95 percent of my life here. I didn’t plan it this way. I love living near the ocean. I am drawn to mountain valleys, France, California, Greece, Italy. Many other places as well.

But I am here. Why?

As I prepare to set out on three months of travel, after shedding my house and so many of my belongings, I wonder what holds me to this place. Am I stuck? Fearful of change?

This is an ordinary mid-sized city. Little here to hate, some things to love, but much is beige. Ordinary. Rather dull, in fact. Like so many places. For those of us who do not leave, what holds us?

This winter was particularly cold and snowy and gray. I dislike winter here in the Midwest. Gray, windy, bitter, drab.

Why not move?

Because.

And the only because I can muster is something referred to as primal landscape, a evocative term that has become a bit of a buzzword. The landscape we experience as children evokes a psychological influence that underpins our self-identity, which we carry throughout our lives. Recent work links this sense of place, this primal landscape, with neural processing at the cellular level in our brains.

Thus, I’m not merely lazy or unadventurous. This place pushes my cellular buttons, apparently in my hippocampus. The good and the bad of this ordinary spot on the earth bubbles and snaps deep within me. Why this place? Why do I linger?

I am, quite simply, home.

A hot summer night. The air is a soft blanket. I lie in a hammock late into the night, warm, caressed, the air all I need for warmth. My skin and air meld. Me, a warm-blooded creature, is in a perfect place, embraced by soft summer air, I become nature, become this place, my skin flows into the air and elements, my breath the air, the air my breath. I smell the earth, the cicada buzz fills my ears, the trees rustle above, the dark clouds move in the dark sky.

A warm, balmy, windy fall day. Leaves on the ground and swirling down from the trees, I breathe in the musty smell. The sky alive with clouds, gray and white, skating from west to east, muting the autumn colors. Suddenly, a burst of sunshine as the clouds part, and orange, red, and yellow leaves glow like stained-glass agains the blue sky.

Walking outside into a December night, the cold slaps me in the face. By January such nights are an unpleasant assault. But this is December, just before Christmas. The night holds mystery, the sacred, the eternal. The crust of snow crunches underfoot, stars shine like tiny sparks in the deep, endless blackness, and out there, somewhere, is a promise.

An early spring day, the grass is an impossible baby green, white clouds racing like mad across the blue, blue sky. Impossibly yellow daffodils flutter and bend in the brisk wind, as if shivering in the cold spring air, like teenagers in pretty frilly frocks and bare skinny legs who refuse to wear jackets. Birds chirp–oh, I’ve missed that sound! The smell of earth–that, too, I’ve missed! A week ago all was brown with faint tinge of green. Now, bam! It’s the Land of Oz in technicolor.

Home.

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