I’ve felt at home many places in my life. My childhood room, summer camp, dorm rooms, staff quarters, apartments and homes. I’ve always enjoyed new starts in fresh places and the challenges were met in great part because I was able to identify a safe place, a home base, where I could recharge, reflect and renew. These bases allowed me to venture out into new territories while still carrying a sense of place in my heart. Even in my most awkward stages of life, I have been able to identify a place to cry, pray or sit with my thoughts. The roof of my parents’ house, the cab of my first car, a state park in Nashville, the Loch trails of Scotland, a porch in South Africa. Each spirited me forth anew with balanced confidence, no matter the blows I took before or after.
I thought about this, what I’ll call a “sense of place”, when I went down to my family’s farm for my birthday the other weekend. I love that place. I always have. Such a delightful mix of dirt and sunshine and old and new. I came there as a child to run and explore and play and I go there as an adult to…well, run and explore and play. No matter that I have no legal rights to the land. I have claimed it with my heart and in the event it is transferred or sold I have still felt that sense of place with my feet in that dirt and it can be recalled through a memory, a photo or a story.
I think perhaps the ease with which I recall this sense of place is the product of practice. My mother and father made me equally welcome in both their homes, in both their lives. They also thrust me out alone into the world early in my childhood, my first stint away from home being two weeks at a girl’s camp in North Carolina when I was six years old. I learned to make Cabin 1 on Hillbrook Hill a home and from there the sky was the limit.
How important it becomes when you’ve been thrust out into the world to be able to identify and claim a “home” of your own; to carry and exert a sense of place no matter the territory. This translates easily to confidence and ease, both graces that attract others to your little circle of life. I know in my own life it’s been when I have had the least sense of place that I have had the fewest comforting companions; that I’ve felt most alone. It’s then I’ve had to be carried through by my faith that I will feel those feelings once again, that I’ve had to reflect on those places, or even that I’ve had to run to those places to remember the certainty they bolster; to recharge my sense of place.
How awful it must be if you’ve not felt these feelings. I can hardly begin to understand the struggle to find balance when you’ve never felt a sense of place. I’m sure there are those people out there. Unsettled, still searching people who never seem to relax completely. Looking for a place where they can let down their guard and recharge; prepare to go out into the unknown with perceptible balance and grace. Entire foundations have been built to provide this sense of place to people who have none. People have dedicated their lives to helping others achieve it. It is a powerful need, indeed.
Find a place for yourself. Go there and recharge. Prepare for the next day of your life and prepare to live it with balance and grace. Trust me when I say it will be easier each time you consciously do so. And, when the opportunity presents itself, please do what you can to welcome others and give them that same sense of place to carry with them. It’s a gift like no other.
This post is dedicated to the people of Rainbow Village; may your blessings be bountiful and your sense of place strong.