Lay of the land
I’m meant to travel. The times I have traveled or lived in other places I’ve been my happiest. So, although I love my home, I recognize that it’s not where I’m supposed to be. For now, maybe it is. It’s a great place for my son to grow up, after all. And that’s why we’re here, really. That and work.
But sometimes I fail to appreciate this place. Not the house itself, but the region. It doesn’t lack beauty, but it’s so familiar. I grew up two townships over. Since I was a kid, I wanted to leave. And I did, but I returned and now, from time to time, I feel a little stuck. I’ve written about this before when I asked for travel fiction recommendations. Sometimes I’m satisfied to explore another place only mentally. Sometimes not.
The word, “touristy,” has a negative connotation because so many people have claimed they’re not attracted to touristy places. As though a tourist attraction is not authentic. But it is, in its own way. Museums, landmark buildings, famous restaurants… they’re all touristy. But they were once pretty cool, and that’s why they’re popular.
To me, it doesn’t matter. I like some buildings, some museums… but a museum can be anywhere. A restaurant can be anywhere. Buildings don’t adapt to the land around them. They’re superficial, like a layer that needs peeled away before you can appreciate the difference in location.
It’s not just about how the land appears. Whether I’m looking at rocky red cliffs, twiggy woodlands, an Eastern shoreline, or barren plains; all places, in their images, are beautiful. But the land has an energy to it. The air has a feeling. And it’s drastically different from place to place, if you pay attention.
I imagine every person would explain it differently, depending on their perspectives. But to me, most of the Northeast is heavy. The air is harder to breathe, just by a little. It’s beautiful here, with four seasons and breath-taking landscapes. But the land has always felt alien, like I’m not a part of it but walk upon it. Like a building.
There are exceptions. The woods, for one. Whenever I played in the woods when I was younger, I felt like I could stay there forever. Now, from the highway, I look at some of the undeveloped woodlands around where I live, and I wonder how I could get there, and how I could justify doing so. Not something to pursue during hunting season, for certain.
I also love the energy of dense-living. I grew up in suburbia, so when I was a teenager and moved to the city, I was captivated by it. Yeah, it was less than ideal when my neighbors, who shared my duplex, brought home a beagle, or when my car almost got towed outside my apartment because the landlord thought it belonged to someone visiting the bar next door, or when just down the street, a celebratory riot broke out because the Steelers won the Super Bowl. Some things I don’t miss. Gunshots at night. Kids banging on stop signs outside my front door. But to this day, I love the older houses, and their styles, and the on-street parking, and the general chaos and energy of it all.
It’s not that I prefer all other places over this one. I’ve been to Iowa- I loved it, the land was flat, the snow was left to accumulate on roads and in parking lots (unlike in Pennsylvania), and it was a fun trip. But I’m not drawn to it. The same goes for the Florida Keys. Largo was my favorite, or Marathon. But I was overwhelmed by their beauty, and I don’t remember exactly how they felt. Although they were not touristy, like Key West felt, but decidedly unique. I was fortunate to stay with some of the locals, and I was fascinated by their lifestyles. But I was not entirely envious.
My experience in California was a bit different because I could focus on the land. There was nothing else to focus on, other than a Carl’s Jr. and a motel. Even the barracks seemed temporary somehow, like a part of the land. The desert has always fascinated me.
But the air and the land in South Carolina is what I miss the most. The southern- but not that southern- and coastal- but not right on top of a beach- towns that I loved. Perhaps I miss it the most because I stayed there the longest. It was a short year, but everything was easier there. Easier to breathe. Easier to live.
And now you know the truth. I’m a little bit of a hippie. And it’s popular theory that I’m also crazy.
But there’s another reason I like to live in other places, and it’s possible this would eventually apply to anywhere I decided to settle down. When you pick a place and you find a home and you get a mortgage, you have roots. Those roots are not material gains, but rather the people you get to know. Eventually, you develop relationships with people in your area, and you become tied down by them. It’s not a bad thing. It can be a wonderful thing. But it’s a limiting thing. Not only because they make you hesitate to move away, but because for however long you stay, you’re surrounded by their particular perspectives and influences. There’s a reason why people from different places don’t just speak differently, but think differently.
There’s nothing wrong with how my friends think and act. I’ve come to love them dearly. But most people who live here, unless they’ve recently moved here from somewhere else, conform in the slightest ways to each other.
Sometimes it’s just nice to be that new person somewhere else.
Posted on 2013 Mar 9, in Ramblings, Writing and tagged California, Culture, desert, eastern, Florida, Florida Keys, four seasons, Iowa, Key West, land, northern, Pennsylvania, plains, Snow, South Carolina, southern, Super Bowl, tourist, Travel, western, woodlands. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.