A Sense of Many Places

Two women sniff a fruit tree.
Two of the People of LWON investigate a fruit tree.

In the past half year, I’ve traveled a lot.

I’ve always traveled a lot. Until recently there’s been a heavy emphasis on longer trips: going to live in a foreign country or hang out on a ship for a few weeks or months. In the five and a half years I was freelancing, time was basically limitless, but money was tight. Now, thanks to a steady office job with an employer that is friendly to the idea of three-day weekends, I’ve been able to start taking short trips to visit friends around the country.

I have a love-hate relationship with travel. There’s the expense and the packing and all that time squeezed into a sardine can with wings. Also, I love home so much, it’s hard to leave it.

Christie, one of the People of the LWON, has written thoughtfully about staying home. For all of 2010, she stayed within 100 miles of the farm where she and her husband live in western Colorado. If I were to clumsily condense Christie’s message, it would be something like this: Stop traveling so much. Be at home in your place. Get to know your neighbors.

But, if I took her advice, I wouldn’t get to hang out on her farm.

I first visited the farm in 2012, for a small conference of freelance writers. The porch offers a view across miles of trees and fields and mesas. Chickens peck in the orchard. The stars are bright and the dogs are friendly. We stuffed ourselves on wonderful food made from extremely local produce; I wrote down most of the meals in my journal. There was French toast with syrup made from the apricots that grow out front, for goodness’ sake.

The place where I live is basically the opposite of that. I have no outdoor space. I live in a one-bedroom apartment at the southern end of a mass of humanity that stretches to Boston, but I stick close to home. I don’t have a car. In fact, it’s hard to get me to hang out more than a couple of miles from home. I prefer to socialize within about a thousand feet. I’ve been in the same apartment for 8 years and have maintained a continuous, low-grade campaign to get friends to move into the building we affectionately call the Best Dorm Ever. I do community theater. They know me at the local bar. Work is a mile and a half away. My connections here are strong. When I do cross Christie’s 100-mile radius, it’s almost always in a plane.

I know going out of town isn’t the best way to maintain my community roots. This weekend I missed multiple concerts and peak bloom, not to mention a lot of opportunities to hang out on a neighbor’s couch or go for walks.

I can’t stop traveling, though. There are too many good people in too many good places.

When a mutual friend found out she was going to be spending this year in Boulder, we hatched a plan to meet up. Boulder would have been more convenient – it’s got better air connections than Christie’s – but I lobbied hard to go to the farm anyway. The Boulder friend rented a car to drive across the state and I endured the physical and mental pains of air travel to get myself to an airport near the farm.

So, Saturday morning, there I was again. Sun shining, dogs gamboling – one of the dogs from my previous visit had died and a new one had arrived, all legs and emotional neediness. Mountains topped with snow. Fruit trees blooming. The occasional moo from a neighbor’s herd. The smell of sage. Thin, high-elevation air making me even a slower hiker than usual. Far-flung friends around the dinner table with bottle after bottle of very, very local wine.

I love my place. But, on all those travels, I’ve fallen in love with a lot of other places, too. Bits of my soul are pinned to a garden in southern Japan, a pasture in North Wales, and a river in Minnesota. And there’s one little piece on a quiet farm in western Colorado, in a sea of sage and juniper.

Photo: Naomi Lubick

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2 thoughts on “A Sense of Many Places

  1. I love this piece! Especially the last paragraph. Also, you got Colorado in a few words: sage, juniper, and apricots.

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