Home – pt. eleventy thousand and something

“I wonder if it will be –can be– any more beautiful than this, ” murmured Anne, looking around her with the loving enraptured eyes of those to whom “home” must always be the loveliest spot in the world, no matter what fairer lands may lie under alien stars.  ~LM Montgomery Anne of the Island

After a new friend tweeted about her Anne of Green Gables book club, I promptly bullied my way in … begged and pleaded might be more like it.  Turns out I am joining the group for their discussion of the third book Anne of the Island. In this book Anne goes off to college to earn her B.A., and the themes of home and place figure prominently throughout.  Given everything going on in my brain and life right now, me stumbling into this book club counts as inordinately perfect timing.

Yeah, I know who could think I’d have anything more to say about home and place, but are you really surprised? C’mon, we’re rapidly coming up to the one year anniversary of my latest cross-country move. The year’s been eventful, and a girl needs to do some processing.
**Note, I know I’ve been all sorts of vague about events this year.  The thing is events are still unfolding, and much of what is happening isn’t necessarily mine to tell.

This post starts with a quotation about how some people have a home, a place to them that is always the loveliest spot in the world.  I’ve written before about how much I envy people who have this clear connection and relationship to a place they call home.  It is not something I typically carry with me.  The most difficult question I typically get from people is “Where are you from?”

You’d think that question would have gotten a little easier this year.  Yet, each time someone asked me I struggled.  I was born here, but I moved when I was young, then I came back for undergrad, but I moved to go to grad school and was there for thirteen years, and now I’m back.  Yeah, no one has time for all that. When I admit I have all these ties and connections to Minnesota, people just assume that I have moved home, that I have come back to that one place, the place I’m tied to.Lakeview I mean, who wouldn’t want to come back here, right?

In some ways, I think they are right.  All year, I’ve felt grounded in a way that I don’t typically.  It’s not family, because I haven’t see that much more of them than I might have otherwise. It’s not the town, because I truly have never lived here before.  There is, though, a familiarity here. My transition to this region, this town, this university it has been smooth.  Smoother than many people could expect I’m sure.  As my last post highlighted, I’ve made friends here. I’ve created a home for myself. For the most part, I even enjoy my work here.

Recently, I’ve had to do a lot of driving down to Minneapolis. When I am there, I miss Bemidji.  I miss my house. It’s quiet, the deck, the yard.  I miss the ease of getting around town, and the view of the lake I get every time I go anywhere.  On the drive home there is also always this distinct moment when I feel like I have put the bulk of the journey behind me and crossed into home territory.  For whatever reason, that moment comes when I crest the hill and drive down into Walker, MN. It’s like at that point my body says.  “Yes, here we are in Northern Minnesota.” But, is this my home? I am still not sure.

Going to see my family in May heightened the tension for me. For the first time, I went back to the Harbor and felt likeGHC view I didn’t want to leave. I could imagine myself back there.  Yes, it was primarily the people.  Being closer to my immediate family and old friends would be nice just now, but it was as always, the landscape too.  There is something about the mix of mountains and ocean that is unique.  Even on the Harbor where you are in between, without a direct view of either, the land envelops you.  Often the only way I can describe it is feeling embraced.  Since then, I’ve often daydreamed about what it would be like to move “home.” Even in my daydreams though, I’m not truly convinced the Harbor is my home.

As momentous as this past year has been, the upcoming academic year will be just as eventful.  This is the final year of my two year contract and the university and I both have some decisions to make. Right now, I feel a lot like Anne when asked about life after college.

“And after those four years –what?”
” Oh, there’s another bend in the road at their end,” answered Anne lightly, “I’ve no idea what may be around it — I don’t want to have.  It’s nicer not to know.” ~LM Montgomery Anne of the Island

This morning on the deck, as I started to re-read Anne of the Island, all of this kept swimming around my head.  Where is my home?  What is next? As I thought about all the places I’d been: where I might want to return, where I definitely would not, and what new places I’d like to try, I realized something.

Minnesota has always been a sort of chrysalis for me. A place where I spend time, where I am tested, grow and develop, but it is also a place I move out from. Certainly the choice to leave here as a child was not mine, but the coming back here for college, leaving for graduate school, and coming back here now, those are mine. No, this is not my declaration that I will leave here. It makes sense to me though, that in this time of change, in the midst of a year that feels like a crucible (sorry for the mixed metaphor), I feel both rooted here and restless.  The trick in the next year will be to figure out how this year has changed me and how long I need/want to stay here.

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