Tag Archive: self-discovery


I wish she hadn’t asked?

At the end of Spring 2012, I was having coffee with a new friend in Chicago, where I had been living for three months by then. She, also a relative newcomer to town (and the United States) knew firsthand about making a dramatic, long-distance move, something I’ve done four times now (albeit only within the United States). Through her new relationship, she had also come to know the little corner of the world (Central New York) that, even after 20 years of living away, I still instinctively call home.

After I answered her question about my hops around the country since college (Orlando, Santa Barbara, Washington, and now, Chicago), she asked, “When you were in high school in Hamilton, did you ever think that you would live in so many faraway places?”

I replied, “No.”

The next question was like an electric shock. My answer, which sprang forth reflexively, has changed my perspective like few other things in my life.

“How do you feel about it?”

“I’m homesick every day.”

In that one statement, I finally found the reason for my daily obsession with summers that are too hot and humid, winters that are too mild and snowless, streets that are too crowded for bicycling, roads that are too heavily trafficked for high beams at night, landscapes that are too flat for inspiration, distances that are too great for escapes to my spiritual refuges, local populations missing the ethnic diversity I knew as a child, farmers markets that are too expensive, and an utter lack of tomato pie or half-moons.

Longing and exploration have been frequent subtexts in this blog, but now I want to make the search for home an explicit part of my output. We may not all be homesick, but many of us could benefit from a deeper sense of home wherever we are; or wherever we must, or choose to, go. I invite you to join me on this ramble through woods and villages, peering over ridges and into windows. What makes a place home?

I’m glad she asked.

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…and about 10% black bear

21 August 2011

I walked down Shore Road from Bayside toward Lincolnville on the shore side, and divided my visual stimuli pretty equally between views of Penobscot Bay and of the interesting assortment of cottages along its shore. “I could live there. Or there. I could spend the summer there.” Some of them are pretty drool-worthy.

I walked about two miles, and after making a brief stop in the woods where there were neither cottages nor people to be seen, I turn back northward toward Bayside. Walking on the inland side of the road now, I am intrigued by my instinctive behavior. Despite the presence of ocean and cottages to delight the eyes, I can’t stop scanning the roadside for berries. Walking along at a brisk pace, my antennae are attuned to that deep-as-black purple of blackberries and the wine red of red raspberries. If I look across the road at the ocean, within seconds, I am, without thinking, again scanning the shoulder for berries.

When I go for bicycle rides in the summer near my hometown of Hamilton, NY, my pace is adversely affected by the same obsessive quest. Few things in life, it would seem, can bring me greater satisfaction than finding and eating wild berries. I can’t remember if I heard it or made it up, but I say of Putney (and, generally, all dogs) that found food is the best food. In my case, it’s specifically found berries.

I’ve also thought since I visited Norway in 1998 (when I read that Scandinavians are big berry-lovers) that I must be a closet Norwegian. If you ever find me drunk on a park bench, look around to see if there’s an empty bottle of Chambord nearby.

I know that I’m one quarter Italian, from my maternal grandmother. From my maternal grandfather, I’m a quarter mix of Irish, French and Canadian (mostly). My paternal grandmother brings a generous helping of German into the gene pool. My paternal grandfather was mostly English and Scottish, with some native Canadian. We used to say Canadian Indian, but for reasons of cultural sensitivity, I think now we’d say First Nation. That probably makes up about 10% of me.

I think they got that tenth wrong, though. Based on the berry thing, I think I’m about 10% black bear.