My 23 year old, Jie, recently visited Minnesota from Western Massachusetts, the Pioneer Valley area if you know it. “Why do you live here?” Jie asked. “It’s so ugly, and boring, and flat!”
I replied, “I don’t know why, but this just feels like home to me. I belong here.”
Jie persisted, “But it is so much more beautiful where I live!”
I’m out visiting Jie now, after a UU conference in Connecticut, and I can’t disagree. The trees are ablaze in reds and golds, there are mountains with streams and rivers tumbling down them, and I absolutely love the stone walls that are frequently seen around New England fields. It’s absolutely beautiful. I love it. It’s much more dramatic and wild than Minnesota. And… It doesn’t feel like home. Though I love to visit, I don’t feel a sense of belonging there.
Belonging to Minnesota did not come easily for me. I came from Oregon, where the rain created a spring with colors that were almost psychedelic—orange and pink rhododendrons that shouted with joy, bright green ferns everywhere, mountains covered with evergreen trees… When I first got to Minnesota, I thought it was colorless, plain, drab. I would see the IDS tower out of the corner of my eye and think for a moment it was Mt. Hood and my spirit would crash down when I realized, again, it was just a white building.
But after some years the subtlety of winter colors began to woo me. The grays and browns of trees in the white snow, against the blue sky, brought a sense of joy and ease. Why do we belong, or not belong, to a place? It’s partly about the people we love, but it’s more than that. Something about the very land enters into us and grounds us, tells us we are home.
My friend Elizabeth moved to Minnesota from Brooklyn more than thirty years ago and if you ask her where she’s from, she doesn’t say Minnesota, she says “Brooklyn. But I live in Rochester Minnesota.” I know other folks like that, too, who don’t feel that they live in their spiritual homes.
I’m grateful to have found my place, flat and boring though it may seem in comparison to others. Knowing that I belong to the land gives me strength, and peace, and calm.
How about you? Where do you feel as if you are most at home, that you belong to the landscape?