From memory, I could draw a map of the neighborhood I grew up in, landmarking it with the places that were important to my younger self, and tracing the short-cuts, secret alleys, and irrigation ditches that my siblings and I knew so well. We were lucky to grow up in one neighborhood, one town, and one state, from babyhood to the time we each left home for college, only moving once to a bigger house a few blocks from the first, to accommodate our growing family. But beyond the good fortune of stability, I count myself extremely fortunate to have lived exactly where we did–right at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
If my siblings drew maps of the area from their memories, I’m guessing that many of the special neighborhood places we marked would overlap, but one feature that the maps would surely have in common would be the greenbelt foothills trails that were just minutes from our front door. We knew the paths back & forth, up & down–the ridges, the views, the climbing trees, the creeks, the piles of boulders with caves underneath–and we loved adventuring there together, in every season, any time of day, and sometimes even at night. There are so many ways that this place and experience has shaped who I am and what I value, and perhaps the artist and the parent that I want to be.
As an adult I’ve moved more times than I care to count, lived in big cities and tiny villages, a brownstone row house, a number of adobe houses, a tall apartment building (historic hotel), and an old colonial, among others. In every case I’ve fallen in love with my new home, eventually, although to varying degrees. In some cases the love for a place was immediate–a gut reaction–while for other places my appreciation developed more slowly. As each home was set up, familiar furnishings took on new character, rhythms and routines were established, while outings and explorations of the surroundings were essential to getting to know the immediate neighborhood and beyond.
Maybe it is obvious, but outside the exact living space and the larger environment, what has really made ‘home’ for me in every place, were the communities I became a part of and the true friendships made there. My extended family was and continues to be the bedrock for my life, enabling me to feel grounded in spite of being uprooted again and again, but now that ‘family’ has grown to include a wider community of dear friends.
Until a few days ago, I wasn’t feeling much love for my new home. Although I could recognize the many many good things that have conspired to make what is turning into a ‘fine life’ here, I wasn’t convinced. So much of what I see around me feels at odds with what I think I want in life–but obstinately, the mountain peaks in the distance keep reminding me that they are there, on the horizon, when the sky is clear enough. And the truth is, we’re not so far from the foothills, it’s just that we have to drive to get there like everyone else.
We are starting to draw a new map. On Saturday we found a treasure to mark on the map, a new place discovered. On Sunday I saw that we already have the wonderful beginnings of our local family–new true friends. All of this sealed by the blessing of a visit from our third set of parents (grandparents) who came to see us ‘where we live.’
The question has become not where we live, but how we live.
The photos above are from a baby book for my oldest son that I’ve been working on since he was born–more about the book soon…