In my ongoing quest to unravel the concept of Belonging, I have a question for you:
If you could live anywhere, where would you live?
When I moved away from here after college, I knew I wanted to go to a city.
New York or LA.
I chose New York because I wouldn't have to drive there.
New York to me was a glamorous place where anything was possible. I believed it would be a place where I could thrive as myself, where I could be myself and find other people who understood me - place where I might find belonging - something I had never felt.
I remember the exact moment when I realized I had made a mistake.
I was walking in the West Village with my new roommate. We were on our way to a street fair to look for $5 dresses. (Remember those cotton babydoll dresses that you wore with Doc Martens?)
It was a beautiful Saturday.
The world stretched out before us.
I was inside a dream and yet, it wasn't right for me.
Living in the city frayed my nerves. It was exhausting. I thought I was a city person, but I wasn't.
Still, I lived there for almost a decade.
And there were things about it I loved, like walking past that brownstone where Joan Baez and Bob Dylan lived.
I liked neon signs at night and noodle shops on rainy days.
I like the culture of a city - the lean toward inclusive progressive politics, access to art museums, fine dining, quirky boutiques, a diversity of people.
When I lived in New York, I loved how many different sorts of people - all races, religions, outlooks, and ages I encountered, worked alongside, and road the train with everyday.
But there are also things I don't like about city living.
Ironically, having to be in close spaces with so many people tops the list.
I do not like carrying bags from the market everyday, relying on mass transit, the sound of car horns, nighttime street screaming, standing shoulder to shoulder in crowds.
I need a lot of personal space, down time, and fresh air on my skin.
I need deep dark quiet nights, an abundance of wildflower, and the music of the trees.
I need a way to ground and connect to the natural world - a balance.
I like to have my coffee with the birds and my evening meditation with the windows open.
I love liturgical worship and I love the small church groups of which I am a part.
I enjoy retreats and workshops...usually.
I do enjoy brief walks through open air markets (before the crowd sets in) and I thrive on visits with old friends.
I like it when people come to my studio and paint with me or sit with me on my front porch for a bit.
But increasingly I wonder if Tracy and Woody and Rocky and I would be happier and more ourselves if we lived on land instead of inside a grid.
The older I get, the more introverted I become - the more sensitive to the energies of others, the more in need of daily detox.
I do understand the importance of community - that we are meant for one another; and I do greatly appreciate the supportive communities of which I am a member.
But the truth about me is, I don't lean naturally toward community.
I prefer 1-on-1 interaction, close friendships, and deep intimacy.
I don't like small talk.
It's incredibly draining for me to be plopped down into a new group of people.
On road trips, I will always pay extra for the private room.
When I had office jobs, I dreaded meetings more than anything.
Though it is a very different place, there are times when being in Oxford reminds me of my days in New York.
The Oxford crowds are thick and it is a slightly more urban environment than you might guess from watching Lewis.
But Jenny takes us places - to countryside unapproachable by trains, and to village pubs.
This year, she took us to my favorite yet, the Highwayman.
I could imagine what it must be like in the winter with the fires going, because that sort of socializing - a Shiraz by the fire - I do enjoy.
As we had dinner, I watched the other people in the pub - a family, each with their pint, celebrating their patriarch's 90th birthday, a middle aged couple with their black lab waiting beneath the table, the young couple with their bottle of wine getting to know one another.
I watched people walk into the bar after eating to say goodbye to their friends.
I watched it all with a bittersweet sort of longing. The longing that has always been with me.
The longing of place.
We'll likely never live in the country, though I can see that alternate life clearly in my mind's eye.
I can hear the cricket song and see the canopy of sky.
I can imagine the quiet expanse of it.
I can also, however, imagine the isolation.
Would we simply disappear?
Would my introversion become so complete I would simply cease to exist?
I was walking in my neighborhood this morning when the light caught a gathering of flowers and I thought how important travel feels to me.
Not just repeated travel back and back again to the same places, but travel to places I've not yet been.
Perhaps, the same way I uncover pieces of myself in the golden stone of Oxfordshire and sitting next to the Chalice Well, there are pieces of me to be found in other places.
There are voices calling to me and those voices are me.
I haven't made it to Southern California yet.
I don't know yet how it feels to brunch at the Inn of the Seventh Ray or sit on a wooden deck in Laurel Canyon with a glass of wine or a mug of tea in my hand, (an Indian print dress with bell sleeves on my body.)
I've never walked on the beach there.
But I would like to.
There are still so many places in this world I'd like to visit, air I'd like to taste on my tongue, coffees I'd like to enjoy in cafes new to me.
Life has a way of rooting us, of bringing us back to our place of origin, of keeping us stationary - but where would you go, if you could go?
What places call to you?
Where would you create your home if you could create home anywhere?
How does place feed or starve your sense of belonging?
There is something in me that is hungry for a place I've not yet found.
And I'd like to go exploring.
I'd like to look for it.