“We need a home in the psychological sense as much as we need one in the physical: to compensate for a vulnerability. We need a refuge to shore up our states of mind, because so much of the world is opposed to our allegiances. We need our rooms to align us to desirable versions of ourselves and to keep alive the important, evanescent sides of us.”
― Alain de Botton,
Earlier this week I was asked where I’m from. As usual, this particular question brought a long answer. I explained that I was born in Europe and had for the entirety of my young adulthood, moved every few years or so. He then asked a question I’d never thought about before.
“Well then where would you consider “home” of all the places you’ve lived?”
It’s funny how sometimes the most innocent of questions or comments can open in us insights into ourselves that we didn’t know existed. His question was one of them and I answered as honestly as I could.
After considering it for a few moments, I told him I suppose I’m from here. Here being the place I’ve lived the past 18 years – Gig Harbor, Washington – a small, quiet little community about an hour from Seattle. For the first time in all of these years I actually owned up to being “from” a place. I mentally made it my home even though I had technically been “living” here for years and years.
The next day, before heading to my girlfriends beachfront to lunch I took my trusty dog Cella for a walk – a walk around our hometown. I did it with a new set of eyes. I’d spent so many years snobbishly wishing to be back in the city; in the hub of culture, that I had been completely ignoring the charm of the very town I inhabited. A town people from all over the world come to visit. The town – my town, originally a little fishing village, was founded by immigrants from Sweden, Norway and Croatia and the street names give the history away and some of the original families still exist. There’s culture here too. Culture I ignored.
On our walk we passed the organic market I frequent, the wine bar my girlfriends and I meet at all the time, as well as the small grassy field my dog likes to play fetch in. As we made our way downtown I was greeted with a view of sailboats coming in to the harbor, Vashon Island to my right with it’s forested beaches dotted with houses and The Olympic Mountains waiting for the sunset to set them on fire. Behind us stood Mt. Rainier looming like a great protector over our little village. How was it that I had taken this for granted for so many years? Everywhere you look, there is natural beauty.
Ironically, I’ve spent a great deal of time in Seattle and had lived downtown before moving here. In fact, I’m attending a museum exhibit opening downtown with a girlfriend tonight. But how quickly after leaving the city had I forgotten my complaining of the lack of community, the traffic which was at some hours unbearable as well of the high cost of living? So easily I wished it back when away from it. Although walking with Cella, I realized that I would wish the peacefulness and beauty of little Gig Harbor back should I leave it too.
Downtown the Farmer’s Market lining the waterfront was bustling with people. Walkers and their dogs passed us smiling and giving pleasantries. The young Olympic Youth kayaking team prepared their boats for practice. A banner reminded everyone that every Tuesday night in the summer was free live music. Here the locals dock their boats filled with friends while others fill the grassy areas with their lawn-chairs, bottles of wine and snacks to listen and dance. On the weekends you can bring your chair back and watch free outdoor movies in the warmth of the summer. All of this I had so callously poo-poo’d for years.
I decided that from now on, I’d enjoy every bit of my slice of heaven, my hometown, known as Gig Harbor. I wouldn’t complain about the gated communities, the BMW’s filling the student parking lot at the high school or the increasing taxes anymore. Instead, I’d be grateful that I have a little piece of it. I decided I’ll always keep a little place here, even when I make my move to Europe. After all, it’s my hometown….