Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Love of Place

Usually when I write these things I stand on one side or the other of a particular given issue. This time, though, I’m stuck in the thinking process and I’m not sure about my feelings.

As families sometimes do, we’ve been toying with the idea of moving - specifically to a warmer climate - and I find myself truly torn.

On the one hand, I like the idea. Even though I love the change in seasons, and actually don’t mind winter, there are limits. Every year around February it starts to get old. Yet every year winter lasts through February, through March, and sometimes into April. Seasonal Affective Disorder (which has the appropriate acronym of SAD) kicks in with an intensity that varies from year to year, and not just for me.

On the other hand, I genuinely love New England and have a very difficult time imagining leaving. I feel like I would be literally lost and out of place.

That last phrase, out of place, is the strongest fear. Most of my life I’ve felt that I didn’t belong. I always felt different from everyone around me and never felt like I was in the right place. 

I’m finally at a point in my life that I feel comfortable in my own skin. I seem to fit in with people I care about and my home finally feels like my home, rather than just the place I sleep and keep my stuff.

On the one hand, there’s a part of me that would love to have sun more often, and I suspect it would have a beneficial effect on my temperament. Also, my wife feels pretty strongly about wanting to be warmer and the fact of the matter is, she’s never been one to ask for a lot. We’ve lived in New England for more than 50 years. Maybe it’s time to warm up.

On the other hand, my passion for family history makes me want to stay. It goes back again to a feeling of belonging. My family have been in Massachusetts and New Hampshire for more than 375 years. We settled in New Hampshire before it WAS New Hampshire! For 13 generations we’ve been here and I guess I don’t want to be the one to leave. Maybe that’s silly, I don’t know.

The other day I was listening to John Denver, who had some wonderful songs about heritage and love of place (which was the inspiration for the title of this post). It got me thinking about all the songs by various artists about this subject and I realized that the feeling is somewhat universal.

Anyone who knows me well knows that music affects me in profoundly emotional ways. 

Just a short list of this type of songs includes: “Small Town” by John Mellencamp; “Where I Come From” by Montgomery Gentry; even, in a sense, “Calypso” by John Denver.

“Sunshine On My Shoulders”, while not specifically about a place, brings back memories of times and places when sunshine really did make me high - an experience and feeling made all the more powerful by living in a region where sunshine is at a premium.

Of course there’s “Massachusetts” by the Bee Gees, sung with such emotion, that has special meaning to someone from there. “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynard Skynard and “New York State of Mind” by Billy Joel both make clear how much those places mean to them.

Then we have the cream of the crop of “love of place” songs. These songs are unequaled in their ability to provoke emotional attachment to a place: Ray Charles makes me want to live in Georgia when I hear “Georgia On My Mind”, and “Take Me Home, Country Roads”, by the genius John Denver, makes me want to move to West Virginia. Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention “Rocky Mountain High”.

I guess the top of the heap would have to be “Back Home Again” by, once again, John Denver. This song is so poignant partly because, in addition to a very specific place (“this old farm”), it’s really more a song about family and love, and makes the point that that’s what makes a home a home.

So, with this last in mind, I’m no closer to resolving my dilemma . . .

1 comment:

  1. "My Little Town," Paul Simon. Always a good reminder that we are "aliens and exiles" in this world and citizens of heaven. Good entry