When I was 9, my dad started working on hotels and would be gone months at a time. My parents decided to rent out our house in southern Oklahoma, buy a fifth-wheel, and homeschooled me and my brother so that we could all be together. We would be in a place for a couple of months and then move on to another job. My mom always took advantage of the traveling and took us to local museums, historic sites, and national parks. After a few years and some hard times, the hotel business slowed down. My dad had trouble finding steady work, so my parents decided to trade the fifth-wheel for a motor home and hit the road. Our destination was my aunt’s house in Connecticut. She wanted her house remodeled and had friends who were also looking for contractors, so the prospect of adventure and the sound of the road enticed us. My brother and I had been homeschooled, so the transition was natural and the idea of extensive travel was quite exciting. We took our time driving to Connecticut, stopping off at national parks, historic sites, and museums. During our stay in Connecticut, we took advantage of the consolidation of the east coast and went on road trips nearly every weekend and occasionally took a week off to explore further areas.
This was a very influential time in my life because I didn’t have a home base similar to that of others my age. I was constantly making new friends and experiencing new places. I found regional differences in people and geography utterly fascinating. When we returned to Oklahoma, it was good to see my family and childhood friends, but the desire to go never went away. It was never a desire to get away, but rather a desire to experience new places, new landscapes, and new people. In The Healing Wisdom of Africa, Malidoma Patrice Somé (1999) writes about the relationship between nature and community. He writes, “Home here does not mean some territorial construction, a mere roof over one’s head. It is, rather, the place you belong” (p. 52). This passage resonates with me because of my untraditional upbringing, constant travel, and lack of a traditional home for a substantial portion of my life. I continued to travel throughout my adolescence and into adulthood and marriage. By the time I was 24, I had seen 44 states, 5 provinces in Canada, 5 states in Mexico, and the UK. In all of these places, I was able to meet new people and experience new things, but none of them felt like home. I didn’t necessarily feel that I was lacking a home; just that wherever I was wasn’t home. Somé (1999) writes, “Whenever I encounter someone who feels alienated, who feels not at home, I realize the person could use a little bit of the green lady’s experience” (p. 53). Again, I didn’t feel alienated, but I knew something was missing, maybe the green lady’s touch. A year and a half ago, my husband and I moved to Seattle and it was love at first sight. I mean, I’ve been to a lot of places, but I’ve never experienced this feeling towards a place where I reside. In comparison to Oklahoma, and other places I’ve been, there were so many trees – so much green! I don’t mind the rain; it simply keeps things green and enhances every smell. There is nature everywhere.
I hiked a lot over the summer and was able to experience new trees, flowers, birds, beasts, landscapes, and smells. It was incredible. I think the most powerful experience I’ve had in the area is when I joined some friends on a backpacking trip in the Enchantments. Kohák’s words skillfully describe my experience. He writes, “It takes the virgin darkness to teach us the moral sense of electric light. It takes the beauty of solitude to enable us to grasp the sense of the word spoken over the distance, the crystal-bright gift of pain to teach us the moral sense of penicillin” (Kohák, 1987, p. xiii). It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but the pain was worth it. I saw mountain goats, butterflies, and a rattle snake – I saw the Milky Way. Beyond the power lines, I experienced nature in a way I never had before. I encountered my own green lady. I felt nature. I felt at home. These experiences in nature are what have tied me to this place. Somé (1999) writes “Your footprints still lead back to the place where you began” (p. 39). Although I was not born here, I am a child of the road, and the road brought me here. My travels and experiences have enabled me to find a place where I feel I belong. Although I’m far away from my birthplace and my family, like Somé, I know that “if I am truly connected to my community, that community becomes a form of immortality” (p. 53). As I continue to discover the nooks and crannies of my new home, my community will always be with me and ever growing. “The feeling of nostalgia signals that there is indeed a home somewhere; that home knows where we are, but it cannot come here, for we have to go out and meet it” (Somé, 1999, p. 52). I will always yearn for the sound of the road and adventure will always call, but for the first time in my life, I feel that I am home.
Jimi Hightower, SCA CVA/IMBY Program Assistant
Kohák, E. (1987). The Embers and the Stars: A Philosophical Inquiry into the Moral Sense of Nature. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.
Somé, M.P. (1999). The Healing Wisdom of Africa. Tarcher Publishing.