The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

13 April 2005

There's a place

I've been in Oklahoma for thirty years, but for most of that time I never felt quite anchored to the red clay at my feet; I was dissatisfied with my lot, and while I accepted most of the blame, I persisted in thinking that being Somewhere Else could only help matters.

In a society that seems to pride itself on its mobility, it's easy to forget the importance of having a place of your own, a place that you call home, a place that you'll defend, if not necessarily to your last breath, certainly into the next few paragraphs. It's a place that's a part of you, just as much as you're a part of it.

Susanna Cornett, on the hills of eastern Kentucky:

It wasn't until I was older that I realized every building, every piece of property I could see from my house was owned by someone I was related to. But that's less land than you might think. The hills close tightly against those loamy bottomlands, and the view doesn't go very far. It's a place where you can feel protected and safe or bound up and smothered. I suspect most people who stay there very long alternate between the two, sometimes during the same day. In a way, in those eastern Kentucky hills, the landscape echoes the relationships, or maybe it's the other way around. Because the hills are low and almost of a human scale, so close you can't avoid living and working and playing on them, they become as much a part of your internal landscape as they are a part of the external one.

She understands. So does Julie Neidlinger, in a North Dakota that seems to be disappearing before her eyes:

[M]aybe I'm not loyal to North Dakota. I'm loyal to where I'm from. I'm from more than a chunk of land with geopolitical boundaries, a page in Rand McNally's atlas. I'm from here, this house, this farm not even a mile east of where my grandfather grew up, and just across the graveled township road from where my father grew up. I'm from a place where I can run my hand over the wood in the granary and see where my grandfather carved his initials as young man, right next to the initials of the hired help. It's the same place where his father used tally marks to count the bushels and planted a chokecherry tree next to the house. This is where I am from.

I am learning. Slowly, you can be sure; but just the same, I am learning.

Posted at 6:27 AM to Almost Yogurt


I don't live where I'm from, but there's a little town in Indiana where every other house holds a memory. I'm related to half the town and, although I've never lived there, most people know who I am. That man across the street, he gave my dad his first piece of chocolate. That woman over there was my mom's babysitter. Those men in the coffee shop used to drink coffee with my grandfather every morning. There is something to be said for a small community that has laughed and cried together for decades. I miss it.

Posted by: Jan at 10:00 AM on 13 April 2005