May 16, 2013 by Erin
In the last two weeks I’ve looked on a few of the world’s most incredible views: I’ve gazed up at the magnificent Duomo in Florence, and down on lakes from an Alpine summit, and over fields of bright yellow French flowers I don’t know the name of. But looking up from this screen now, my eyes meet my favorite view, where outside my bedroom window the leaves of my tree have reached their fullest green. And even though my fortnight of whirlwind travel was the stuff of dreams, I can’t help but be a little sad I missed the last blossoms of Kentucky spring.
It’s a marvelous thing to travel, to find yourself in a place completely other. The world is big, with so much to see and do and enjoy. If I could, I’d see all of it: there’s not much I like better than a stamp in my passport. But don’t you think, in this great big world, that it’s an even more marvelous thing to belong someplace?
“Our greatest and smallest explanations for ourselves grow from place.” I read those words by Barbara Kingsolver on a flight from Milan to Manchester last week, and I thought of my place, and how very much I belong in it. I belong in this place that, like me, can’t decide if it’s city or country, northern or southern, modern or just plain old-fashioned. I belong to rolling hills and Bluegrass harmonies, red brick and white columns, maple trees, limestone, and rail fences.
My life, whether I like it or not (though I do very much like it), is situated in and stems from a particular place: a certain piece of land, a language, a community. These are part of me, and come wherever I go. As cosmopolitan as I may purport to be, any definition of Erin must always include the word “Kentucky.” And it’s wonderful to be home, in the place that explains me, where there’s no need to explain myself.
It is amazing, with the whole world stretched out before us, that humans mostly stay put. Most of us are not nomads, and I’m not sure that habit, financial limitations, or the like are sufficient explanations. It could be that, just as we need families and friends to belong to, we also need a place to belong in. We need land to love and defend, cities to know and invest in. We need, in a word, home.