Thursday, January 12, 2017

Home and Away and Why I Travel: Guess What?

Want to play a guessing game? I'm easing gradually off my couch, away from the box of kleenexes and the packet of cough drops, moving slowly into the year. Some stock-taking is in order (I found Sam's post, and the links that brought her to her January stock-take, so inspiring, and hope to follow her example soon. Even contemplated taking this online course in creative stock-taking, although I've decided it's not quite time. . . yet). So many directions I want to pursue, so many posts begun, so many drafted mentally but not yet on any page. And the letter-writing and the knitting and the sketchbook open on the table, beckoning.

But back to that guessing game. . . one of the directions I want to pursue as I get into the year's blogging is toward understanding the distance between Here and There, to work out some of the pull that Travel exerts for me, and to think about how that pull, and the time I spend away, changes my experience of Home.
While it's taking me forever to get to the guessing game in the blog text proper  -- amusez-vous by trying to place this image.  Where do you think I took this photo?


There was a point last year, mid-February, I think, when the idea of moving overwhelmed me. No one except our realtor, a friend of mine, knew that we were getting ready to list our home in March, and I knew she would accept any decision we made, would never pressure us to go ahead before I was ready. And although I could rehearse and agree with all the reasons we had for making the move then, I told Pater I needed to hold off a bit and seriously think -- and feel! -- whether or not I could make such a drastic move. I felt, at the time, that there had simply been too much going on (one daughter's cancer; another's move, with family, to very distant shores; my retirement, due partly to an ongoing mix of fatigue and anxiety and amorphous, intermittent sadness).

What does all that have to do with Travel, you might legitimately ask.  Oddly, perhaps, I determined my readiness to move was by imagining that we'd been offered a year in France, Italy, Spain -- or even other interesting and attractive locales, but less familiar places for which we had no relevant language skills. I realised that I would say "Yes!" to such an opportunity, and my next recognition was that if I were lucky enough to spend a year like that, the year's distance from home would loosen ties that -- at that moment -- had been feeling like life safety ropes. If I could manage a year away, even thrive, find that year liberating -- as I could easily imagine, even as I imagined the challenges -- I knew I'd come back changed enough that I might be keen on our return.


Can you guess the city that hosts this street mural?
And whether or not that was a realistic scenario, that process of projecting myself into a year of Living Away, of Slow Travel, if you will, told me something about my attachment to Home. It didn't show me any less attached to the island home I loved deeply, but it promised me that I could loosen that attachment and get beyond the loss of a place that I felt such a part of -- or perhaps somehow maintain the attachment in some other form I have yet to understand.

This post is just meant to introduce a topic I hope to nibble at here over the next month or so, something about the ways that Home can be enhanced by leaving or perhaps more that there are aspects of Home that are portable or can be recreated -- or perhaps even that sometimes we might benefit from shucking our shells and working for regrowth. And that Travel (and of course Travel can take many forms, can't it, depending on the context) might have something to do with that process. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the topic, whether you move every two or three years and wonder what the fuss is about or you've stayed in the same home for decades and know that the values of deep-rootedness outweigh any possible benefits of a move.
And may I just add here that while I was being overwhelmed by the thought of moving, I couldn't help being aware of the world's desperate and involuntary migrants, especially as my country was doing its best to accommodate 25,000 Syrian refugees taken in during the previous 3 months. So yes, I did try to maintain some perspective on our move of choice from beloved comfort to probable comforts yet unknown.

As for The Guessing Game? These two street murals are obviously by the same artist, but one of them is to be found only a few blocks from home whereas the other sparked my recognition when I came across it in Bordeaux last September. Can you guess which is which? Answer to be revealed next post . . .




29 comments:

  1. Aren't we fortunate that we are not living in a war torn country? I cannot imagine how terrifying that would be...there are several Syrian families being sponsored here in our neighbourhood and its amazing how quickly the children are adapting...their English is coming along so fast.

    Oh gosh we are totally rooted in our bungalow and have been since we purchased it over 30 years ago...I cannot imagine moving but I know that we will at some point. I like the idea of starting fresh in a condo with a door that can be locked and left for months so we can travel. That to me sounds like freedom...no yard work, little maintenance and new scenery. I would change up my furniture to mid century modern and focus on teak and buy some artwork! You might surmise that I am readying myself for this years before it will happen...perhaps a strategy that will ease the transition!
    With so many memories rooted here in our home...I do think it will be tough to leave...but I will just have to push ahead and move on as best as I am able when that time comes. But for now, I am content living here in our humble bungalow.

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    1. You're so fortunate in your home, L, in being able to stay there from your children's earliest days and to still have years ahead, near to where your grandkids are. And your lovely garden! If I'd had that combo of my beloved home and proximity to my family, I'd never had moved.

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  2. To move? To travel? To do both? What makes us do what we do in other words. I'm very much a stay in my present home till the bitter end, if possible. Why you ask? As a child and young person we moved all the time. So much so that all my schools wouldn't all fit onto the usual CV form. When I finally moved to Jersey it was wonderful. Even tho I've moved three times on this island my present home has 25 years on the clock. That feeling of permanence for me is all important. As for travel. Yes we travel a lot but in tiny chunks. A week here, a fortnight there. Never more. I start to twitch after two weeks. We are all so different for many reasons. I look forward to reading others comments. B x

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    1. I can see that all the childhood moving would generate a wish to stay put. And (see my response above to Hostess) I love the idea of staying in a home for decades.
      You're so lucky to have so many travel destinations within such easy reach of a short-term trip. I can relate to that twitchiness about the longer times away from home, but I'm feeling much different in this transition time of my life -- I expect that may very well change again...

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  3. We've been living in our condo for 20 years. As a child, I lived in one neighbourhood with few disruptions. Before I retired, we renovated and redecorated. I thought, "This is it!" However, as I age, décor seems much less important as does fashion. In a few weeks, I will be moving to another small studio
    in Oaxaca for "alone time." Carolyn Heilbrun has always fascinated me. At a certain age, she purchased her own separate residence (she still lived with her husband most of the time) where she could read, write and contemplate. Wherever I go, I can always find a book to read, people to talk to, Netflix to watch...Sometimes, home and its accoutrements feel like a burden. I have no idea
    which painting is which. I'll visit Sam's post now.

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    1. The most interesting (older) women I've known inhabit homes whose "decor" doesn't stand out as such but simply seems an organic reflection of their lives. They're usually too busy with their travels or their reading or writing or music-making or volunteering to be (re)-decorating, although they've certainly been thoughtful about choices over the years.
      Heilbrun was fascinating and inspiring in so many ways (although not in her suicide, at least not for me). Even those of us with family don't always want to be defined by, nor eternally responsible, for it. . . . so glad you're having more time in Oaxaca. It's become another home for you, hasn't it?!

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  4. I fantasize about moving often, and when the urge hits, I pore over real estate sites in the towns near my where my children live. But then I look out my window and realize that I love our house and our land. I am so grateful for living here and grateful that we can grow our own food, my husband can hunt and fish for clean meat, that I can look deep into the Milky Way and watch a flock of turkeys and see the dinosaur DNA in them.
    It was during a recent vacation that I realized that what was making me restless. It was that in spite of 38 years in education, I have not made a difference in improving school life for children. School is, for all the new initiatives and demands, essentially the same as when I was in school. I was the square peg trying to survive the round holes of my own school career and I became a teacher to change that. I realized that I am tired of trying to fight the fight. I am angry that we have to send kids home with backpacks of food on the weekends so that they can eat. I am tired of being told that it is my fault that test scores are not improving when our students are dealing with drug addled parents, homelessness, the interference of social media (at such a young age), unfunded federal and state mandates for "school improvement," sweeping policies originating from ideology, not from research and thoughtful implementation.
    I simply want to be at home and look out my windows at the ever changing sky, watch the hawks scan the field, marvel at the increasing snow pack, clean, cook, sew, putter, chat, read, and learn, and yes, travel. Carol

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    1. I know precisely what you mean about loving the house and the land -- I have found it wrenching to leave the intimate relationship I had with that bit of waterfront, my knowledge of the sun's progress along the horizon each year, my growing familiarity with tides, my awareness with the weather. I think the tradeoff is a fair one, though, being closer to family, and for me, making the wrench now means I can adjust to it while I still have a fair bit of physical, emotional -- even psychic? -- vigour.
      Interesting that it took a vacation for you to recognise your weariness with your career. I would reassure that you must have made a difference in countless individual school lives, but I know what you mean, and it was partly the structural component that wearied me and drove me to retirement as well. Vacation, even in place, forms the same function as travel, doesn't it, changes our rhythms, gives us a chance to observe, to gain some objectivity.
      Good luck with moving closer to what you truly want to be doing. After 38 years teaching, I'd say you've earned that!

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    2. All day as I was out and about with errands I was composing an apology to you and your readers for my rant. It was a long day and a long week for me, and I regretted being so negative. But, with your usual grace you responded so generously and uplifted my spirit.
      Although I never lived in the city and can't speak from experience I imagine you will learn the colors and patterns in the city sky, find pleasure in the angles of shadows and light on the buildings during your runs, and amusement in the distorted images in the reflections of windows. You will make the city your own because of the larger reason you are there-to be near your family. Carol

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  5. My name is Ann.

    Ohmagawd. You don't pose questions on topics that are tough much, do you? ;)

    This is a huge topic for people anticipating and/or navigating retirement and in my opinion one of life's toughest transitions. It's complicated because retirement is accompanied by so many other life changes, e.g., accommodating and recovering from our own or a mate's serious health challenges, caring for elderly parents or adult children or even grandchildren, distributing (or ditching) all those preciouses we saved for decades, finally having time and resources to live postponed dreams, wanting the last acts of our life to be as rewarding as possible, appreciating the reality of "if not now, when?" and planning for the certainty of our own infirmity. The calculus of where and how to do all that ain't easy.

    I am the rolling stone among my siblings, as is my husband. And we're pretty good risk-takers. A couple of years ago we took a one-year lease on an urban loft in a gentrifying city 100 miles away, while keeping our large country home and flitting between the two. Although we enjoyed aspects of downtown life and don't regret our experiment at all, we found the loft too noisy because of the place we chose to lease. Now, we're back in the country loving the quiet life. :)

    Then there's this reality: My husband has been diagnosed with cancer and, although he's currently in remission and doing well, his cancer has already recurred once. Thus, the odds are high that I will outlive him. I know I would not stay in our country home after he's gone. In fact, we will probably sell it in the next year and move to "town." But the question is: Which town?

    We want a place we can lock up and walk away from for months at a time, since we love traveling abroad for weeks or months at in that "Slow Travel" way you described. We also need good medical facilities nearby, a vibrant community with interesting people of all ages, access to airport(s), etc.

    All this is to say that we'll eventually figure it out. We've enjoyed making new homes, so we'll probably be OK, knowing that making a new home never goes perfectly. I'm watching your transition and hoping to learn from it -- no matter how it goes. Thank you for blogging about it. :)

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    1. Hello Ann, yes it's a Pandora's box of a topic, isn't it?! So many considerations, different for all of us. I can imagine that the shadow of your husband's cancer will be a huge factor as you think through where to go and how to nest there. And yes, you will eventually figure it out in your own way, as we are here. Making the requisite mistakes along the way but also stopping to celebrate the happy adjustments. It helps -- especially in a case such as yours -- to have a relationship with effective communication habits , a willingness to be honest and a sensitivity to how much honesty one can handle at any given time. Thanks for joining the conversation -- hope to hear from you as we go along.

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  6. I read this earlier today and was struck on so many levels:

    "“Last forever!” Who hasn’t prayed that prayer? You were lucky to get it in the first place. The present is a freely given canvas. That it is constantly being ripped apart and washed downstream goes without saying."
    ~Annie Dillard from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

    I can't say that I pray that prayer, but I realize that I blithely assume that change--at least of residence--will be under my control: my choice, my timeline. Pretty silly if I give it even a moment's thought. And yet I treasure my home of 45 years, especially the strong connection to the natural world. And consider myself most fortunate.

    And I love to travel, always taking with me some little talisman from home, and choosing something to bring back: sand from a beach, an oak leaf from a grave marker, a stone from a field. These threads linking home to away, here to there, seem somehow sacred.

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    1. So relevant and resonant, this quotation, Elle, thank you! My sister and brother-in-law were among the first people we told of our decision, late summer of the year before we listed the house -- The first thing my BIL said, and it continued to echo and to reassure us, was "Well, you've had over 20 wonderful years there. You've been lucky."
      And who knows? We might have X number of wonderful years here as well. If we're lucky. We're already lucky, of course, you and I and many of the readers here, that we are somehow able to bilthely assume that change is under our control. . .
      Ah, those talismans, those threads....

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  7. Oh my! This post and all comments are real stories,sincere,simple but all so strong.
    I moved twice so early in my life and than again twice I could remember,once as an adult-always in a same,my home town. Now,I am preparing myself for moving to the condo-planning the move in a couple of years,but who knows....
    I think that all the preparations,thinking what to take,what to leave,visualizing furniture etc., would help me to part with the house.
    As life goes by,things are changing....I was always planning to spend a couple of months, when retired, in my coastal condo(I've chosen it respecting the same conditions as Ann-hospital and airport not so far....),but life has chosen the different way,so I'm happy if I spend 2-3 weeks there every year.
    Slow and not-so-long travels make wish me and appreciate my home more.
    Last year was very hard for you Frances-some of it planned,some not,but you've must to feel unrooted. My retirement (choosed and planned ) was very stressful for me.
    I think it would take time to settle down,time of mourning takes about a year
    So glad you are better :-)
    Dottoressa

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    1. You're so wise, Dottoressa, and I appreciate your perspective -- until I read your penultimate sentence I never quite thought of myself as mourning, but there is something to that. I think I've pushed those feelings away so far (the travel helped with this) and I suspect this 'flu is my spirit and body conspiring to sit me down and see where I'm at. . . .On the mend now, and looking forward to another year of conversations with this lovely community.

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  8. The thought of moving every few years makes me want to lie down...but I really wouldn't mind a change of venue within the next couple of years. It is largely to do with where you are in your life - as kids move out, parts of the house seem redundant and I crave something smaller, lighter and less bogged down. And the travel question is interesting; probably because you leave home and family behind and you are just yourself, reacting to different places, cultures and modes of living. Some people find it terrifying but I rather like it. After all, humans were evolved to move about, not stay in one place. Don't know if you can access BBC TV programmes, Mater, but there is a fascinating series called (I think) The Human Journey by Dr Alice Roberts. Well worth viewing, esp if you are still a little under par. Glad you are on the mend but don't go mad. Doucement, doucement.

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    1. My sister (whose husband is an RCMP officer, so moving was always part of the deal) has moving down to a fine art, but I'm like you and would prefer not to do it again for a very long while. That said, like you, I think it will (eventually?) be good for me to have been shaken up a bit.
      I'll keep an eye out for that TV series.
      And amusingly, I wondered at first why you'd ordered me to Document, Document . . . ;-)

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  9. It's very late, and I have to get up early, so I'm going to wait to write and submit a more considered response to this post. In the meantime, if you can do so easily, please post a list of previous posts that relate to the topic of how and why you decided to move away from your island paradise. Having subscribed just as you moved, I have read as much as I could find in your archive on that subject, but I'm sure there is more. I ask because I surmise that understanding what you have written about that question (really, two questions) is key to understanding what you are writing now, and because my husband, and particularly I, are navigating our hesitant way toward making what sounds like a similar move. With great interest, Leslie from What is Now A Winter Wonderland

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    1. Leslie, if you look at the very bottom of the post, just below the "You Might Also Like," you'll see the heading "Labels" -- click on the word "Moving," and I'll warn you, there are posts from when I first announced our intentions here. Some only deal with our move glancingly, among other topics whereas it's the main point in others. Let me know if you have any problem finding what you're looking for, and I hope you find some of it helpful. And yes, I see that you're really playing in the snow down your way! (I'm hoping you'll have it cleared away before I get to Portland next month! -- and btw, I left you a response to your earlier comment about meeting up in Portland. Again, my email is fsproutATgmailDOTcom, if you're still interested.

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  10. That's Kashink, isn't it? The top one is Paris and I am stumped on the bottom. There is a wonderful Kashink mural here, but it's not that one that I pass often.

    ma, perhaps you could liable your "moving" posts, for readers like Leslie. For me it was important to do the move, once the decision was made. That sounds obvious but vacillation is a kind of dead zone, and also to realize once the move was made, that it took time to acclimate. Just because the boxes were emptied and the new curtains up did not mean I was "there" yet.

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    1. I might have known! You are so damned urbane, cultivated, of course you know Kashink's work. The top one isn't actually from Paris, but I did photograph it in France. . . all will be revealed.
      And yes, I've made sure that all posts to do with the move have the label "moving" -- I'd already done this for most of them, but scrolled back earlier and realised that I handed labeled the first few.
      I'm not quite yet able to say "In retrospect," about both the shoulder zones of moving, but yes, the vacillation is Limbo-like, except there's no tension in Limbo, as I remember my catechism....We're in the acclimating stage now, and it's going well, but will be better when the weather allows the city to open up to us more. . . very soon, I think.
      And making my own friends here (beyond just family) will be huge!

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    2. If you did not see it when you were here last year, Google her "%0 Cakes of Gay" mural, which is in the Gay Village here.

      Making new friends is an odd process in a way because you just can't approach it like, say, buying a table- a lot is happenstance, and some that you think will take off do not, while others just naturally happen.

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    3. I didn't get to the Gay Village last visit -- that's a great mural and Googling her gave me a better sense of her work, thanks.
      Yes, it's an odd process indeed, and it requires a certain amount of faith, even more, perhaps of self-care, and then time. . . ;-)

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  11. Gosh, such a thought-provoking post, Frances. As someone who moved many times as a child (my father was in the air force) I got used to not really having a 'home' in terms of a place/building. Home was wherever my family was. That rootlessness has stayed with me and I'm only just starting to understand and cherish home as a place because we are living somewhere I love. Having said that, I'm sure I'll be ready to make the next move whenever that is. How do you feel, now you are back in your new home after your travels? Sam PS Thank you so much for the mention.

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    1. An interesting perspective from someone who's experienced both. . . as for how I feel now that I'm back in my new home? Still sorting that out, quite honestly, but determined to be positive as much as possible. And also simply to observe and accept what I'm going through, being so grateful that we have enough of what it takes to buttress against the toughest aspects of moving.
      You're very welcome for the mention -- thank YOU for enriching my blogging life. The stock-taking trail was a great one to follow.

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  12. I agree with others: this is a thought-provoking post, and I may be on the other side of it from most who have responded. I've moved ~35 times in my life (not in military) and like your sister, Mater, I have it down to a science. I've gone through periods of culling stuff, trying to minimize, but find that after a while things just migrate back to me (especially books, movies, music). I've made a concession in this tiny apartment to give one small closet over to my collection of boxes & packing material. Repurchasing it every 3yrs or so is too expensive & difficult. These all still have the labels on them! LOL
    What I've found is that when others settle in for the long haul in their homes, I get restless. The furniture arrangements are too restrictive, the light from windows is either too much or not enough, there's too much noise, etc.... Perhaps all this dissatisfaction with location is because I've never moved out of 150mile radius? Perhaps what I really long for is to leave this place (in the larger sense) and go "somewhere else", further away, that perhaps will feed my soul more than here? But can I please take my family with me?
    I did make my first long trip alone this summer - 10 days in London, on my own! - it was wonderful!

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    1. Really interesting! So you get your roots from an overall geography, perhaps, but having to stay in a particular space within that place is uncomfortable. I couldn't handle the wear and tear of so much packing and unpacking, but I'm guessing that you might become clearer about what really must come along and what not to pick up in the first place.
      10 days with London all to yourself? Glorious!!

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  13. Sorry, I am late for this. It has been a busy week. I am not a great mover. I dread the effort of sorting out and packing and organizing and unpacking – all of this on top of everyday life which – at least during the last years – has felt like too much already. When my landlord tried to push me out of my spacious but run-down apartment where I have lived for over 20 years, I resisted. Partly, because I could not face a move, but also – and more importantly – because I would not let him bully me. But I also know that sooner or later I will have to leave this place. Too big, too expensive in the long run. So I am preparing for the change that many people make at about my age. I am glad that I have the freedom to choose the right moment when to move into a new stage of life with smaller luggage.
    At the same time I feel very privileged because my desires for continuity are satisfied by a different place: a (shared) holiday cottage near a lake which has been in the family for over 100 years (not the building, but the place). When you first mentioned your plans of leaving your island, I not only found it hard to believe, I even felt some kind of panic, until I realized that in my mind I was mixing up the Salish Sea with a tiny lake in northern Germany. If there is something like “home” for me, it is that place. When I try to understand the feelings of those Germans (Jewish or not) who had to leave the country in the times of the Nazis or of today’s refugees, I only have to imagine someone telling me that I can never come back to that cottage by the lake and I feel the chill in my bones.

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    1. You are very fortunate, Eleonore, to have that place at the lake. And from what you've told me of your apartment, I can see why you fought hard for the right to stay there until you're ready to leave.
      Of course, your use of the term "the Salish Sea" -- a recent renaming as a counter to centuries of imperialism/colonialism -- recalls former displacements that put mine in perspective, as, of course, does your reference to refugees of last century and this. We're so fortunate that we make these moves with the choices we are able to exercise, and I do my best to keep that in mind.

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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