Saturday, November 19, 2011

Where in the World

You could have lived anywhere. And chances are, you have lived several places. Your forebears came from yet other places which you may never have visited, and never will.

Our nomadism is inside us. It is indubitably linked to the hope that also is inside us. Our species moves and wishes to move.

I think a lot now about where I'd like to live. Not in the way I did decades ago: with the certainty that I would eventually live in every place that attached itself to my daydreams. Then, I had many lifetimes; some of them would be spent in California, in Italy, and perhaps somewhere in the Southwest. (In 1985, I put a thumbtack in the map on the dot called Taos, New Mexico, having determined that moving there would solve each and every one of my multiplicitous problems. I arranged interviews, talked to friends of friends, rented a motel room and flew there, only to be struck full force in the head the first night there with the doom of an even more certain truth: that the place I lived was not the originary point of my problems; I was. Back I went to home, and into the terrible beauties of psychotherapy.)

Even now I am questioning the wisdom of rural living, gorgeous though it is: having to drive everywhere--twelve miles to an affordable grocery, seven miles to the library, six miles to decent coffee, and (most desperate of all) very little in the way of takeout.

Of course, there is the fact that the solution to the current economic fix, one that is not going away because the system that gave rise to it is untenable, fully broken now, and that has caused actual unemployment upwards of seventeen percent (per the government's own figures), is the erasure of a hundred years. By that I mean a return to the employment structure of pre - industrial revolution times: small farming. I'll need a new house, though, or else a tiller to take care of the lawn and a chainsaw to take care of the neighboring forest. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

In the city recently with friends who had also retreated northward at the same time and for the same reasons I did eleven years ago, I asked R. if he missed living in the city. "Nope, done that. This town belongs to others now. But we do think about where we'll go for the next chapter. When the kids are grown, maybe another city, like Portland or Austin. Where you can walk to the coffee shop."

I am not the only one, then. At some point we'll pack our bags again. We'll feel that mixture of quivering fear and hopeful possibility: a new life! We will colonize our dreams. Then, at some other point, later on, we will start thinking again. Where will it be better? Where in the world will we go next?

7 comments:

Mark McGlone said...

I've long had a yen to live in or near San Francisco. I've never even been there but it seems like it would be a nice place to live. And as a history buff, I find the area's history interesting. I don't think I'll ever move there though. I'm pretty settled where I am, and I'm not a rolling stone.

Charles said...

the roads in the bay area are spectacular. but there is a lot of driving. no matter what you think, there is a lot of driving in Austin too, and it's hot s hades in the summer.

there is no magic place. YOU make where you live your home.

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

No, it's true, no magic place. But some places try harder than others.

That picture is of Athens because, the first (and only) time I visited, for six months during college, when the plane touched down I had this deeply strange sensation that I had come *home*.

All I'm asking for is a couple more lifetimes to test your thesis! And yes, San Francisco would get one of those lives.

ronald said...

I grew up in Northern California, far in the northeast state, close to Mt. Lassen. We are natives: my family has lived in California since 1850, my wife's somewhat later. Career brought us east, and that has offered us a perspective we could not have otherwise obtained. But when my wife and I retire, we will return to California. Fortunately for me, I actually know where my most basic geographic place must be. Nothing can replace for me the tall trees and the high mountains in that area. I think many Americans are not so blessed with such certainty.

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

Ronald, I'm glad you know where your heart is.

At least I can return home in my dreams. For a brief, delicious moment, I am walking through my childhood home. Nothing will ever feel quite like that.

brittany said...

I moved to San Francisco three months ago, fully intending to pine for my adopted home city, Boston, until work/life permitted I leave to head back east. It's frightening how much I already adore it here and imagine I could stay for years. I will never stop thinking about packing up and moving on, no matter where I am, but it feels good to be here, now.

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

Brittany, just a little while ago I heard the novelist Ann Patchett interviewed on NPR. She was talking about how she had moved from California to Tennessee as a child. The Mamas and Papas song "California Dreaming" became to her a wish in musical form--if only she could get back, she said, everything would be all right.

I guess it's all right for you now.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dN3GbF9Bx6E