There is a concept that I’ve struggled to state clearly in the past about home, but I have come to this: It is home because I love it; I love it because it is home.
The author and theologian Tony Jones lives in Edina, Minnesota, two blocks from his childhood home. He has always lived within five miles of it. In a recent blog post titled “Why I’m Staying Put,” he offers a defense of the well-rooted. (And yes, we have a tendency to be defensive.)
Why have I stayed put? There are several reasons:
First, I like it here. Minnesota is a beautiful, fantastic, seasoned place, filled with genuinely good people. I like the culture, and I know it. And the Twin Cities makes just about every list for best places to live, bicycle, run, etc.
Second, the land. My family owns some woodland about 120 miles north of my house. I want to spend the rest of my life within a couple hours of that, my spiritual home.
Third, influence. Because I know this place and I know these people, I’ve been invited to serve on some youth advocacy committees, I was a volunteer police chaplain for ten years, and I hope to run for public office (probably school board) some day. Of course, none of this is only available to someone who stays put, but it seems a lot more natural to me since I’ve been rooted here.
It should be said that the fourth reason is his divorce and the subsequent shared custody, but it’s a long story and, fortunately for me, I don’t have that aspect to relate to. Those first three are compelling, though. I would add that, in addition to the influence aspect of knowing the place and its people, there is also simply the joy of the relationships one can build with family and oldest friends.
This is not to say that I don’t admire people who move away. I love to travel, and almost anywhere I go I enjoy thinking about what it would be like to live there, maybe just for a while. Sometimes I’m envious of the nomadic for choosing the place where they want to live the most, and living there. To me, it feels like the place chose me.
Over at Minnesota Trails magazine, editor Dave Simpkins writes about walking an old farm road that runs through the property in western Minnesota where he grew up and where he still has a cabin today.*
I put on an old pair of waterproof hiking boots, a war-torn rain jacket, and a big ugly hat and I headed out on the Hjelmar Road.The Hjelmar Road leads to the Hjelmar land, that old Hjelmar Huff, a Norwegian, homesteaded in 1884. My grandfather, a Norwegian married farmer, bought the little six-acre patch of land from his son August in 1922.
I’ve hiked, skied, Jeeped, cut wood and hauled hay on that old road most of my life. I shocked wheat and oats in the Hjelmar Land, camped in the summer and dug a snow cave in the winter. I shot my first deer here and picked blackberries by the quart.
The whole thing is worth a read: Roaming through our legacy | Minnesota Trails.
Dave goes on to say that every child, every person, deserves to have such a place, and to experience all their lives the mystery of what that attachment means. I agree, but I also agree with the second part of what he gets at: that not every kid can have a 300 acre family farm to grow up on and grow old on, but we can all have attachments to nature through public lands and waters.
A great-great-…-great-grandfather of mine rode a boat over from near Trier, Germany in 1851. I visited the village when I was traveling in Europe in 2003. The thing I remember the most was the bus ride to it; how the rolling farmland looked so much like the Wisconsin where he would ultimately settle. Even he, who was willing to leave everything he knew behind, must have found comfort in the landscape.
* Disclosure: I am currently doing some writing, Web and social media work for Minnesota Trails magazine.