Friday, July 2, 2010

connecting with Place

What is it about a place that helps define who we are? There are places we fall in love with, places we hate, places where we wished we lived, and places we can't wait to escape. We are bombarded with images of people living in places that are better than ours; they look so happy, but are they? Is life easier in a place that you love? Mostly, I think of places that no matter how hard we try to leave, they will always be a part of us.

I am torn between places. As a daughter of an Army officer, we never had one place; life was a series of different places.

When I was 10, my dad received orders to move to Alaska. We all fell in love with a new sense of place. The surrounding forests in Anchorage were lush, rocks and mountains were jagged and raw, water was abundant in a way I had never seen. A short drive down the Seward Highway would grant endless waterfalls edged with lacy ferns. Ponds, lakes, streams, inlets, they are everywhere in Alaska.
Then came the visitors--close relatives, distant relatives, and friends of distant relatives, all eager to visit this place. I never knew when I would be giving up my room to guests, but it was always inevitable.

As I grew older, the elements began to wear me down, or so I thought. The darkness began to suffocate, the cold snaked through layers of my winter coat, snow was no longer fun and enchanting, rather it was something you had to scrape off your car window before you could go somewhere. Life was throwing me punches, and place became easy to blame. I often heard myself say, "I can't stand these long winters," "I can't remember when I last saw the sun," "I would take the baby for a walk, but I'm afraid she'll get frostbite," and finally, "I hate this place!"

Through a series of events came the opportunity to move. My grandmother's house stood empty in Carlsbad, New Mexico. It was built in the 60s, nothing special or unique, the wood paneled walls and dust covered carpet smelled of age and work that needed to be done. Yet I knew I would see the sun, I knew I could walk along the banks of the Pecos River, and I knew I could make something of this house and its small plot of land. It could be a home for my children and myself.
And so I moved. August will mark my third year trying to establish myself in this new place...

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