My Grandmother was born in Ogdensburg, New York near the Saint Lawrence River. This is nowhere near my from. She then moved two hours south to attend Syracuse University where she met my Granddad. They married and moved several places where they had five children, the middle one my mother. They landed in Lawrence, Kansas where they raised those children through college at Kansas University. All of us grandchildren are a little bit Jayhawk because of it. Hard not to be in this family.
My grandparents would then move to Hastings, Nebraska for my Granddad’s last job. It was here where they would retire. Hastings, Nebraska is pretty much smack dab in the middle of the United States. We call it the Midwest. It’s a LONG way from the West Coast when you look at a map. But once upon a time it was nearly the west. Nebraska is wide and flat and open. Fields upon fields of corn and wheat. Too open for me. I didn’t like all that flat open space.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved visiting my grandparents, and I have nothing against Nebraska. Husk on you huskers. I have crystal clear happy memories of that town and that place. I remember the foxes that snuck through their backyard. The lilac bush, so fragrant. The little cement patio out back where my parents would sit and her parents would sit as we’d flit around catching fireflies to fill up a jar. I remember the organ and their crystal and the sheer shades always pulled closed. I remember the mall and the Holiday Inn and McDonalds for pancakes with my Granddad. I remember the awful brown shag carpet in the kitchen and the pool table in the dark basement and my Grandmother’s knitting. And I remember laughter and hugs and lots and lots of love and cousins and family. I remember it all.
But I always was glad to come home to Oregon. To trees and mountains and hills and valleys. Tall tall trees. That stayed green all through the year. To my grandmother, these same Douglas firs felt claustrophobic and heavy and made her feel closed in. To me they felt safe. I recall a very specific conversation with my Grandmother about the impact of a space on your self. We wouldn’t have talked so ethereally about it. Just how her places were the wide open golden waving wheated plains of the midwestern United States. And the Saint Lawrence River of her childhood. I have yet to visit there, but its on my list.
I won’t forget that conversation. Her admittance that while she loved visiting us out the Oregon Trail in our from, her heart felt happy upon return to her Nebraska home. Of course you say. Makes sense. Home is where the heart is and where you make it. Bloom where you are planted and all that clichéd overworked glory. But that being said, I’ve had to bloom in many places and can attest that some, more than others, leave imprints on your psyche. Oregon for me. Not so revelational. And believe me, I’m going to keep trying to show you why. Stay tuned.
But there are others. Places that have left marks. Good marks. Like sculptors of souls. Many of these places I’ve lived in. Others I’ve spent time in. But there are certain places that will continue to pull me. Drag me. Back. Do you have these? What is it? A sense of home? Family? Times spent. People connected with. Memories made. Music heard. Food tasted. Challenges met. Inspiration found. What makes a place iconic to you? It’s a mashed up collaboration of intense emotion, outright geographic crushes and blatant experiential memory factors for me.
Oh man. What is she talking about? You know what I mean. Geography is a starter. Like swiping on Tinder or scrolling through Instagram – we’re wired for aesthetic responses. What place makes you click like? For me, I have to like the geography. What a places looks like. There has to be a physical attraction for me to bond with a place. I don’t think it’s shallow. But realistic. And it doesn’t have to be landscape necessarily. Although most of the time that helps. Put a mountain in the backdrop and I’m usually sold. Most of the time. But here I am in Copenhagen and while it definitely has left a watermark, there is barely a hill to be found. Not where I live anyway. Flat, flat, flat, flat. But the city’s infrastructure and architectural iconography are difficult to ignore. And let’s face it – it’s fricking charming here. Come and you’ll see. The houses are like candy colored confections dripping with charm. But, it’s not all sunshine and roses here. That isn’t because of the architecture. And there’s a lot of roses to be honest.
People are another big factor. Even if your special place is somewhere that you’ve never called home, only visited – whether a million times, or just two – the people that make it, that you meet (when you’re walking down the street) or the ones you share that space with – they make it. Or break it sometimes. It can work in reverse too. But those places fall away. They don’t make the list. The internal list. You know you have one. It’s the good ones that stay with us. That we want to remember. Again and again and again. For me, memories created with people impact a place’s longevity and staying power on my internal list.
What else? What else gives a dot on the map a space in your soul. Experiences. Times. Not things. Oh don’t worry – you can still buy that thing. That souvenir, that street art, that Scandi sweater, that tchotchke or that t-shirt. It’s ok. A momento of those spaces that speak to us acts as a memory jog for those experiences experienced. But that comes first. The experience. What did you do in that place? With those people. Did you hike a mountain? Did you surf a wave? (We tried, we really did and I will admit to you now that while everyone else in my entire family stood up, I only achieved a sort of one-kneed doggy style ride. Did I love it? I still did.) Those experiences connect us to a place. Did you eat epic pasta or savor sumptuous gelato? Were you entertained by artists or musicians or street buskers or athletes? Was it a night full of laughter about nothing at all? Did you find peace in a book in this space. It can be the smallest of moments that leave the largest footprints. Times. Not things.
So – let me break it down for you. Here’s what does it for me. What makes me go ape shit, heart a flutter, super giddy about a specific somewhere. Three things. What a place looks like. Who you know this place with. And what you did there. These for me are the essentials for defining WHY a place sticks. Why you choose it. Why you love it. Why you will always feel it’s tug. Why you would run back there in a heart beat. Sometimes it takes an instant. Sometimes it creeps in slowly. Sometimes it’s both.
These are my places. Magical, beautiful, memory-filled places. I know you have a list too. Maybe you haven’t thought about it this way or put it down or categorized it. But you have one. We all do. My Grandmother’s midwest. My Oregon and now my Denmark. But there are others that flirt with my wanderful heart. These on this list are mine. Are they yours too? Please share. Here are mine in no particular order:
Oregon – all of it. Yep. I’ll keep sharing it – you’ll see.
There are myriads of others where I’ve loved and lingered and gotten lost. But I could go back to each of those places on this list again and again and again. I sat down today to write a much different piece. I was going to tell you about one of my places – specifically San Juan Island. And I will – don’t you worry. It’s too beautiful not to share. But the why of a place. Why it sits with you. Why it marks you. Why you love it. This is my why. Today anyway. Been to those places? Feel the same? It’s ok if you don’t. You don’t have to. It’s not your why. But I’m happy to try to convince you. You knew that didn’t you. I will keep sharing my places. I’d love to know where in the world speaks to you. Give me your top three in no particular order. Maybe you’ll convince me! More places for the list. I love that.
Happy friday all! Love from Denmark! Erin