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Home and the Heart


Home and the Heart

Why is there 'no place like home'?

Because I am away from home, I am wondering just what it means to feel 'at home'. I deeply love the southern Appalachians where I live, but feel certain I could love other places as well, had the Great Gumball Machine yielded ME in another instance of place and time.

I sometimes wonder, if I had grown up in some flat and featureless place (Kansas, maybe), would I have ever developed a 'sense of place', a feeling of belonging to a place that, upon leaving, all I would think of is how much I looked forward to returning, of standing in my own fields again?

I'm talking about a relationship with the land, WHERE you live, not the people, not the city, not the community. What makes one either bond to the physical features of where they live, or not? Is it simply a matter of loving the one you're with, geographically speaking? Growing where you're planted? I don't think so; at least not for me.

I grew up in central Alabama. To my mother's great disappointment, the land could not hold me. As soon as we could, we moved to Wythe County, Virginia, and it felt like moving home. Twenty years later, Floyd County feels even more like home, and I doubt we will ever move again.

But the roots of my belonging may go deeper. Traveling through the foothills of the Bighorns this week, I felt potentially 'at home' in the Buffalo, Wyoming area. I had the strong sense that I could live there and find a truer ME perhaps than in the gentle green, wet mountains back home.

Even stronger, almost eerie, was the profound certainty that I 'belonged' in the Highlands of Scotland on our visit there last year. It was as if I remembered having lived there. My very favorite place around home is Grayson Highlands State Park near Mt. Rogers in Virginia: a five thousand acre fragment of high elevation fog-enshrouded, wind-swept rock and low heather-like growth and 50 mile vistas...very similar, on a tiny scale, to both the Scottish highlands and the western mountains I have visited this week. Is there a message for me here? Were the seeds of rootedness in mountains born in me?

My fate was to be 'from' the Heart of Dixie. My heart, it seems, belongs in higher, rougher places. I have such a small experience of this planet, and I can't help wondering: if I knew all that was on the menu and could slip back into the Giant Orb, what would I order for a place called HOME? Or is the longing I feel for my true home on Earth an unfulfillable desire to reach a place I cannot know in this lifetime, but perhaps only in life to come?

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