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"Home's not where I live, but where I'm of."

The more one wanders, the less home seems like a physical place. Repeated leavings, when combined with lengthy separations, leave no more than an increasingly vague SenseOfPlace in its place. I admit that this transformation makes little sense, for if a place is a place is a place, the physical space should at least seem to remain somewhat static in my absence, but it just doesn't. Instead, reflections, which manage to get everything but vague gists backward, come to dominate what remains of my sense of home. I might therefore catch glimpses of home wherever I find myself with only one prominent omission. I understand, even in my more entranced moments, that I project that image I so readily and warmly recognize. It's not so much out-there as disconcertingly close to in-here instead. I nonetheless feel the heartfelt satisfaction as if lighting up a long-favored and rarely savored cigar. I secretly hope The Muse won't catch me sneaking a smoke.

Still, people ask me where I'm from, which always gives me uncomfortable pause.
My Roman Prefect ancestor could confidently reply that he hailed from Gaul, for he was both of that place and almost always in that place as well. He wouldn't have had to adjust his internal home button to account for lengthy dislocations from the place that he was of, like most moderns must. I might choose to reply that I live in Golden, Colorado, but that I'm from Walla Walla, Washington, though I wasn't born there. Walla Walla was the place I first imprinted on as the place of which I was, and I've always thought myself 'of' there. I feel vestiges of 'of-ness' when I visit my actual birthplace, but I cannot remember ever living there, only visiting there, since I left when I was a scant eight months old. I visit my forebear's graves which clearly demonstrate where they were 'of', though few of them were born there, either. They probably became 'of' that place through the mind-numbing repetition of simply having carried out their adult lives there, borne children there, before finally dying there to be interred there to eventually become indistinguishable from the soil they had so diligently worked there.

I humbly acknowledge that I am not of the place where I live, a glaring shortcoming which leaves me feeling apart from those here who have found their 'of-ness' here. Those who came of age here complain that they cannot recognize the place they once knew as the center of their world, where gravity worked right, and no corner held much of any mystery as to what was just around it. Now, they peer through the present veil of modernity, trying to perceive the familiar which was eradicated when that freeway went in or after that devastating flood. It's clearly not the same anymore. Even those who never wandered far from the territory they were 'of', found themselves watching with increasing nostalgia as their territory moved on without them. Can there be any effective rushing to catch up with that?

We might all be destined to become orphans, wraiths wandering through increasingly unfamiliar territory, with only the vestiges of a warming SenseOfPlace to comfort us. I appreciate this sense for its absurd clarity and its reassuring tenacity, for within it I never feel fully alone. Some cynically try to elicit this sense in me, cleverly designing pseudo places to pluck at my nostalgic heartstrings. The rusty license plates securely screwed onto the wall. The oil-soaked floorboards redolent with a scent I remember perhaps too well. I slip into my seat thinking I've stumbled into a somewhat jumbled caricature of some place, my SenseOfPlace almost overwhelming me. I soon enough learn better, that I've been played, but still feel appreciation for the wave that so briefly washed up and over me there.

I know full well what I am made of. I must be about 90% (at least) what I am of, my SenseOfPlace. When I return to that physical place, modernity, or what passes for it, seems to have washed away some of my so clearly remembered color from the place. I, too, will peer through the displacing new construction, hoping to see the place I am of still lurking there. The resulting resonance will vibrate through me and I will feel just that much more alive even though I will understand that the place of which I carry such an overwhelmingly strong sense will have up and died sometime before, during one of my too-frequent leavings or way-too lengthy separations. I might feel heartened to acknowledge that I still carry my powerfully strong SenseOfPlace and that it will not permit me to simply reply to the 'where you from?' question without overly complicating my response. Home's not where I live, but where I'm of, and that's more a sense than a place anymore.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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