Monday, February 12, 2007


Reading the Vilhelm Moberg novels about Swedish emigrants in the 1850s has got me thinking about place. And since becoming blog friends with people around the world I’ve had a growing interest in geography. Here are some questions I'm thinking about:

- Why do people relocate? Think of emigrants who have traveled across the Atlantic (or Pacific, or wherever), for weeks or months, risking their lives (think Hmong refugees). There are some obvious reasons, such as poverty, fear of home governments or civil war, religious persecution, etc. But my friend Inge, who moved from Germany in college and stayed here. What made her choose the U.S. over Germany for residence?

- What is there about some places that we connect with on a psychological, even a spiritual level? Like when I went to Paris for the second time, after my parents died, and I felt I found my Self for the first time?

- Why do we choose to live where we live? I mean, why do we stay? What keeps me in this location, now that my parents are gone?

- Growing up with foreign students, and now getting to know blog friends in India, Finland, Hungary, Hawaii, Shanghai, I’ve seen that we are really the same in many ways. But how does our geographical location, our culture, make us different? For instance, living in a very hot climate vs. living in a very cold one. How does heat, or lack of it, affect someone’s psyche?

- How has high speed communication and travel changed how we see ourselves and the world? Why do I feel so connected with the 18th and 19th centuries? Do I long for a time when speed was not part of life?

What I’m most interested in is Place as a character in our lives. As an amateur photographer, I can’t help but notice that other parts of the world are more appealing as a physical backdrop for photographs than where I live. A barn in a Michigan field (above) doesn’t carry the same punch as a barn nestled in the Rockies or the Alps. (I don't have a photo to offer for this one.)

Is beauty a legitimate draw for moving? When Don and I retire, we’d like to move up north to the Traverse City area. Why? What pulls us there? Water of various shades of teal, rolling hills of orchards and stone buildings, tiny towns with old cottages, cliffs overlooking Lake Michigan, woods of pine and spruce, sand dunes, Native American culture. But more than just the beauty, there is also an openness, an artistic perspective where a writer, a painter, a craftsman, can live and feel at home.
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But is that all there is to feeling at home? How do we know we'll feel at rest there? What if we move, settle in, and find that there are other factors that keep us from letting our true selves run free?
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And now I think of it, shouldn't I just feel at home in myself, regardless of location?


Ginnie said...

So many questions, so little time!

This sounds like a good jumping-off board for a great group discussion, Ruth. Think about Dennis moving to Atlanta, after spending 40+ years in LA, to be with the love of his life. Think about those of us who have two homes and go back-n-forth. Is place more about people? Maybe in some instances.

But Place for me is very much about where I feel at home, as though a past life is still residing deep inside me. It's also about acceptance and therefore can change? For a long time I did not feel accepted where I grew up. As that changed, it became a Place for me again.

So many questions; so little time!

Ruth said...

Boots, yes, I know. What you write is similar to a poem I've started, also on this subject, called "My Place." When I get a good enough draft, I'll send you a copy. I do think it's about what's inside, not out. We take every place we've lived and been WITH us, inside us. And we make home where we are. Sometimes it's more difficult than others, in some places where we don't feel accepted, as you mentioned.

Rauf said...

The place of birth is a major factor Ruth. I am very unfortunate as my father chose to send us to a city for our education. I don't know if it was a good move. I always feel that I would have been lot happier as an uneducated farm hand or a shephard in my native place. I like spending time talking to the villagers, farm hands, I have followed shephards in the himalayas, I talk to them for hours, most of them dream of a life in a city. They all think that I have gone mad. Not one of them loves the life he or she is leading. Though I don't hate my life in a city but I feel I am completely out of place, an alien.

There is more freedom in India than anywhere else in the world. There is a struggle to survive, too much competetion. This is not the only reason for people to seek greener pasteurs in the west, US in particular. I have seen people who were already doing pretty well here seeking a better life in the west. My friends come on a holiday, some of them say 'rauf we envy you' . Some are annoyed with my blog and say that I make them feel guilty. Some take the trouble of calling me from US just to say 'sorry i don't have time to read your blog' Some have sympathy that I am still struggling to survive and try to help, which I don't accept ( I accept books and music, sometimes i demand, please bring me Keith Jarrett)

You belong to a place Ruth. A place you are most comfortable and relaxed how ever hostile the place may be. Actually, you don't own the place, the place owns you.

Ruth said...

Rauf, you and don love farms and farmers. I think Don would happily have been a farmer or farmhand.

I grew up in a small town, and that was a good place for a child to live and grow. I could be outside all day playing with friends, and no one worried. Some friends had farms, and we would swim in ponds and wander. It's not like that now. Most kids stay indoors and play video games. Parents are worried that someone will snatch their child outside. Even at Don's school, where it's a neighborhood school, the parents drive the kids to school; they live just a couple blocks away!

Lesley told me yesterday how wonderful it was in NYC to see all the men carrying flowers home to their Valentines. She said when she lived in Michigan, she was always in her car. But in the City, she sees people face to face and loves that. I had not thought about that, and I was touched by it.

I do believe our comfort and peace we carry inside, wherever we go. I wonder how it is in India with so many people. I can see why you would want to escape the city there and go to the country where the fields are wide open and the pace of life is different. It's a hard life though, farming.

thehealingroom said...

Reasons I would relocate Ruth are:
For Love, I would move for love. To be with a partner who lived somewhere else or to make the move together.
to move to where my life would be enriched or enhanced in some way. Perhaps financially or opportunity wise.
to move to be nearer to my children, grandchildren, which I guess is for Love as well.

lesleyanne said...

there are no simple answers to these makes me think about my move to New York. in almost all of my interviews i've had, i've been asked why i moved here.

i did move for love. i fell in love with this city 2 years ago when we visited for Nate and Nancy's wedding. i felt something in the overwhelmed me.

i don't see myself 'settling down' or raising children in this city. i try not to treat this as temporary. i'm living here now.

lesleyanne said...

you know, i guess that's what it all comes down to....where we are now. and figuring out if that's where we're really happy. like you said mammas.

lesleyanne said...

[[ps! thank you for linking my blog!!!!]]

Ruth said...

Jennifer, those are all good reasons to move. I thought when we moved to this farm in 2003 we had made our last move. But now I'm not so sure . . .

Lesley, what you said is, I guess, living in the moment! There aren't any rules really for this stuff. It's just following our heart and then using our mind to see if it makes sense in balance. It's trying to figure out if what causes us grief can be accepted, and if not, then it might be time to make changes.

sex said...