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Friday, August 26, 2016

Contemplating Sense of Place (Flashback Friday)

       
       Where exactly is your "home"?   Do you have a place where your roots are?   Or as the adage goes, "where your heart is"?   In this post I'll be reflecting on this concept of having a home, a place of connections, and being from somewhere...


       IT'S FLASHBACK FRIDAY - A TIME OF THE MONTH WHERE YOU CAN REPUBLISH AN OLD POST OF YOURS THAT MAYBE DIDN'T GET ENOUGH ATTENTION, OR THAT YOU'RE REALLY PROUD OF, OR YOU THINK IS STILL RELEVANT ETC. THIS BLOG-GO-ROUND IS HOSTED BY MICHAEL G D'AGOSTINO FROM A LIFE EXAMINED--THAT'S WHERE YOU'LL FIND THE REST OF THE PARTICIPANTS OR TO JOIN UP YOURSELF.

THE POST I'VE CHOSEN FOR THIS MONTH FIRST APPEARED ON TOSSING IT OUT ON 
MONDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2010. TO SEE THE ORIGINAL COMMENTS TO THAT POST YOU CAN CLICK ON THE TITLE BELOW TO BE TAKEN TO THE ORIGINAL POST. MY REASON FOR CHOOSING THIS PARTICULAR POST, BESIDES IT BEING AS RELEVANT NOW AS THEN, IS THAT IT IS RELATED TO MY MOST RECENT BATTLE OF THE BANDS POST AND IT'S RELATED TO THINGS THAT HAVE BEEN ON MY MIND RECENTLY. ..



Where're you'all from?

            Robert Young Drake was a professor of English at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville from 1965 until 1999.  A noted English scholar and author, Robert Drake was most associated with his homespun stories about the fictional West Tennessee town of Woodville.  Drake was well known for his story-telling skills in the rich dulcet tones of an aristocratic southern gentleman.  After suffering a stroke in 1999, he was forced to leave his beloved teaching position, returning to his hometown of Milan, Tennessee where he died on June 30, 2001.

               I was fortunate to have had Dr. Drake as my professor of creative writing for two classes when I attended the University of Tennessee in Knoxville in the early 1970s.  One of the corrections he made to my thinking had to do with roots and what we think of as home.

              In the first class we were given the assignment to write about ourselves so that Dr. Drake could get to know his students a little better. This was to be a brief autobiography that included where we were from.  My story was the example that he always looked for to teach one of the first lessons about being a writer.

             Since I had moved around a lot in my life I wrote that I wasn't really from anywhere.  My hippie philosophy at that time tended more toward existentialism.   I tried to portray myself as the rootless wanderer in life who was searching for self and purpose.  That was the cue for Dr. Drake's lecture on roots.

             "Everybody's from somewhere," he enunciated in his rich southern accent.  He went on to give examples of writers like his favorite, Flannery O'Connor, who was from Georgia.  Writing, he explained, is an extension of who we are and an expression of our experiences and our heritage, all of which has roots in particular place and time.

               It was in that class that I began to appreciate my Tennessee home.  Even though I hadn't been born there and hadn't grown up there, it was the place that felt most like home and the place with which I could most identify myself.

               When we think about writers, we frequently associate them with place.  With Hemingway it might be Key West or Steinbeck the central California coast.    Many of us think about Hannibal, Missouri when we think of Mark Twain even though he did most of his writing elsewhere--but it was that place that shaped and influenced much of who he was and what he wrote.

                 As Dorothy Gale from the Wizard of Oz was to find out in her fantastical visit, there's no place like home.  A writer can take us anywhere imagination can contrive, but the story has to come from somewhere and that somewhere is inside of each of us.

                 Where are you from?  What do you consider to be home?  How does it influence your writing?  









43 comments:

  1. I live here in Bournemouth UK. BUTam not happy here I loved it when I lived in Spain.
    I was born in RedHill Surrey, Lived in Bristol until after I had my three children then moved to Weymouth on the South Coast. stayed there until after my husband passed away. I have no roots at the moment perhaps if my family spoke to me things would be different.
    Enjoyed your post Lee hope all is well with you. Enjoy the coming week-end.
    Yvonne.

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    1. Yvonne, I think we all have our roots somewhere, but those can be distracted by a sense of belonging. I hope you can find that sense of belonging that you yearn for and that your heart finds its truest home.

      Lee

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  2. An Existentialist Hippie! :) My homestead still stands. I grew up in the same home and town of Ridgefield Park, New Jersey. Then moved all over the place. Those roots grounded me. I found that, like Dorothy, home is within you.
    https://meinthemiddlewrites.com/

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    1. MLQ, home should be within us and yet I find so many people who seem to feel rootless and wandering aimlessly through life. Partially I think it often amounts to a rejection of family, past, or heritage which is sad in a way. Accepting self includes accepting where we come from.

      Lee

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  3. I've lived in 4 different places but they were in 4 different time zones and felt very different. My roots? I was born in Oregon and lived there 19 years, but that is not home. I've been in NC 22 years and it does seem like home. Our house, our friends, our church - they're all here. I love the conservative, patriotic, and Christian atmosphere we live in now.

    However, if I ever got a chance to go back to ABQ, NM, I would seriously consider it. Those 4 years there were amazing.

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    1. L.Diane, Thomas Wolfe wrote "you can't go home again" and in some ways that's true, but then again going back to a place where the memories are good can be very satisfying though never quite the same. Our sense of belonging anywhere is a state of mind.

      Lee

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  4. It drives my husband crazy when I say that I'm from Washington, when I was born and raised here on Cape Cod. I fled to San Francisco when I was 24 cause this never felt like 'home' at all. I loved living in CA, but Washington State will always be 'home' even though I only lived there from 1999-2011. If Russell had been able to move west I never would've left.

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    1. JoJo, life is full of sacrifices and compromises. Sometimes we have to settle for whatever works out the best for us.

      Lee

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  5. Moved 18 times all in the same province. So guess it's here my roots are. Not sure I've used it in much of my writing, but my current book is based where I grew up.

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    1. Pat, different houses don't necessarily decide the sense of home though sometimes a special house can have great meaning. I guess it all is a matter of personal experience and outlook.

      Lee

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  6. I like Flannery O'Connor a lot. I was just thinking about "Wise Blood" this morning. I always have a feeling of "Why is this happening?" when I'm reading her stuff, but it all comes out interesting and thought-provoking in the end.

    I've been in Houston all of my life, but my parents were from Pakistan and that's been part of who I am.

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    1. Nasreen, O'Connor is about as good as literature gets as far as I'm concerned. She addresses so much about the human condition and in such unique stories. Our heritage can play such an integral part in who we are and it's difficult to disassociate ourselves from that.

      Lee

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  7. i live in Connecticut (USA), but never considered it home...Texas was where i was born and still carry many of those habits, but home will be in Virginia, soon i hope

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    1. Brite, I've lived in Virginia on a couple of occasions and grew to like it pretty well. Lately I've been considering the possibilities of one day returning there to live. Hope you find your sense of belonging in Virginia (or wherever else you might end up).

      Lee

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  8. While I've had the good fortune to visit many fascinating places, my home, my roots remain in Arizona - shocker, right? Just the sight of A mountain from an airplane window can bring happy tears to my eyes. Even if you move around, I don't think you ever truly forget the tree you rolled away from. Good or bad, the influence always remains. Great post, Lee!

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    1. Diedre, the world usually shapes us more than we shape the world. When we can accept who we are and where we stem from then we are probably better for that.

      Lee

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    2. Saw this comment, Leeand had a thought-sorry to barge in on your exchange with Diedre...

      I would argue that the world ALWAYS shapes us more than we shape it. Even those in our society whom we give credit to for changing the world, when you look at the change they are credited for in a historical perspective, it always seems to be a little less due to the efforts of the one individual.

      Or said differently, all we are is dust in the wind....

      LC

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    3. Larry, essentially I would agree with you, but still I think some examples could be thought of--I can't really think of any right now. And if you put it in a grand context of all of history then what you say becomes more correct. On an individual basis we are all pretty small and meaningless as far as the world goes.

      Lee

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  9. I've lived in Arizona for 21 years but still think of Philadelphia as home, even though I doubt I'd ever move back.

    People in AZ always seem to take offense at that, even though I like AZ just fine, and the Philadelphia area has morphed into something very different than I remember, but what are you gonna do?

    Some of the numbers of moves in prior comments amaze me-I lived in one home for close to twenty years, a couple of rental spaces, then my house in NJ for five and my AZ home for 21. Just the thought of packing my CD's and books 18 times makes me want a nap!

    Larry

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    1. Larry, I think you cite an example of what Dr. Drake was saying. We might think of ourselves as "from" somewhere, but mostly that is an image of memories.

      Moving is a big hassle, but I might be willing to make one more move in my life if it were the right move.

      Lee

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  10. Hi Lee!

    It's a blessing that I now own the home I grew up in. I'm very content.

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    1. Dixie, I'd really like to own the house that my grandparents on my mother's side owned--it's a fabulous old place. The present owner let me tour it in its updated renovated state a few years back. So many memories! I also wish I could own the last house that my parents owned--where I too lived for many years. We recently had to sell it as my siblings and I didn't want to maintain it and none of us could move into it.

      If you're content in your home, you can't ask for much more than that.

      Lee

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  11. No, I've moved around too much to be 'from' somewhere. The UK will have to do. ;)

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    1. Jemima, the moving around thing was my argument as well, but the way Dr Drake explained it made sense to me.

      Lee

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  12. I was born in Detroit, Michigan, but my parents moved across the city line to the suburbs when I was two years old. I went to college in the city of Detroit and then worked for the city after college. I was there for 13 years. But my home has been here in West Bloomfield, Michigan for the last 44 years and I think it's what I consider to be my home.

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    1. Denise, that connection would make the most sense to me. We each decide what we consider home and I don't know that anyone can rightly dispute how we feel about that.

      Lee

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  13. I was born in Welland, Ontario...ughhh anything but dreary Welland but I grew up in the country and the country really speaks to me. I have not travelled far but yet I feel like home has faded into the mists. I love my home that I own but I know that, one day, I will sell it and move somewhere where it will be easier for me to handle. I feel a sense of home when I travel to Austria...in the mountains. My mom and her family were from Wittenberg, Germany but later my grandparents and Aunt and Uncle lived in Graz, Austria. Part of my heart is there. My mom grew up in Germany but she always felt home was Canada and loved up north with the lakes and trees especially winter...she truly felt at home. Who knows if we had a previous life where we lived in places we now feel a kinship to.

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    1. Birgit, I have a fondness in my heart for Welland as this was always the first stop on our theater tours through Ontario. We would play a various nice high school theater where the crowd was always good and we made a tidy sum on concessions. Ah, yes, Welland--I wouldn't call it dreary, but I didn't live there either. Don't know about our own previous lives, but I'm convinced that where our parents are from has a huge influence on our own perception of place.

      Lee

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  14. Lee, I'm from southern West Virginia. I spent the first 17 years of my life there. As you may recall, I'm a child bride and with marriage came the move to Knoxville, Tennessee because that's where DH got his first job after college. I have lived more years here than in my home state and this feels more like home to me. I have fond memories of my youth spent in the Appalachian mountains of WV to warm my soul and we are fortunate to still visit the area since DH's father lives there whereas my folks moved to southwestern Virginia about a year after I left home. There are many similarities of both areas and perhaps this is why East Tennessee is so comfortable feeling or maybe it's because of the time spent here or maybe a little of both and since this is the place(s) I know best then I find my writings incorporate these places I love into my stories. One day, I hope to pick up my writing again, but for now I will enjoy blog writing instead.

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    1. Cathy, a big piece of West Virginia is within me since my parents came from there and I was there a number of times. You and I both need to pick up our writing outside of our blogging.

      Lee

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  15. I consider myself to be from Illinois because I grew up there on a farm. Then home was in Indiana, then Florida, and now home is in Northern Colorado. It's not that I'm fickle, but I believe "home" is where the heart is.

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    1. Patricia, I think the heart definitely plays a big role on the concept of home.

      Lee

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  16. When someone asks me where I'm from, I usually say Cleveland, although o haven't been back there in 25 years or so. I don't really feel like I'm from anyplace having moved around the States, spent 12 years as an expat and now live and travel on a boat. Home is definitely where the heart is, as someone mentioned, and less of a permanent location.

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    1. Sailor, I was born in Cleveland so I guess literally my situation is the same as yours. Loving travel like I do and feeling so at home in so many places I relate to what you're saying.

      Lee

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  17. I have called two states home, Arizona and Oklahoma, and I think they both have influences on my writing. Arizona was where I spent my childhood and was the first place I discovered writing. Oklahoma is where my writing has been cultivated and inspired. Because of my family and the people around me now, I consider Oklahoma my home, but Arizona will always hold a place in my heart.

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    1. Elizabeth, maybe anyone who thinks of themselves as a writer has an obligation to show loyalty to anyplace they've lived, spent time in, or dreamed about.

      Lee

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  18. Key West and Hemingway are synonymous in my mind. I'd love to go there! I was born in Soest, Germany and do identify strongly with my German roots. That said, 47 years in the Toronto suburbs has given me a "split personality" in that regard; half and half.

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    1. Debbie D., Key West holds an attraction for many people. Even after you've lived someplace for a year I think a strong identity can be formed. If I stay in a place for more than 3 days I start feeling as though I've lived there.

      Lee

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  19. I was born and raised in the Allegheny Highlands of Pennsylvania and, much as I love the country there, I rarely go back. I find it rather depressing now. But I wrote a series of books--my Marienstadt stories--all set in that area. Home to me will always be Gloucester, Massachusetts where I have lived for 25 years now. This is where my heart is happy.

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    1. Kathleen, I think there are probably many writers like you and I think you exemplify what Dr. Drake was talking about. What we think of as home isn't always where we are from.

      Lee

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  20. Dr. Drake sounds like quite a creative writing teacher, and it shows that you were one of his best and brightest.

    Where is home, for me? That is a more complex question than it is for some folks. I've lived in New Jersey long enough to be comfortable - and long enough to feel less connected to my original home in Connecticut. I recently wrote about being back home and how much things have changed You Can't Go Home Again. It doesn't directly address the question, but it's the best answer I could come up with for now.

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    1. Chris, I'd like to believe that I was among "his best and brightest", but he had some incredible writing talent that passed through his classes. I read your post about going back home and it was a good one. Sometimes I think that things change so much in appearance and who lives there that it really is not quite the same that it once was. Being connected and comfortable is important to having that sense of belonging.

      Lee

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  21. I am from Newington, CT. Like the song "Small Town", I'll probably die here. The state itself has for the most part, served as cannon fodder for my writing. Not so much as for the people as for the places I've visited over the decades.

    Father Nature's Corner

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Lee