What makes a place feel like home?
I’ve been watching Tiny House on HGTV and reading blogs about living in your bus, or a van and I often ponder this question. These folks that travel so much and wander for a living… What does “home” mean anyways?
I just returned to Portland, OR for my fourth Wild Canyon Games (which was awesome by the way…) and part of me felt a little homesick. Brian finds this entertaining, because he loves to point out that Portland isn’t home. I only lived in Portland for nine years. I’ve lived on both the East and West Coasts… now I’m smack in the middle of the US. Why does Portland feel like home to me? I certainly don’t miss the weather… So I think it’s community. Having a group of people and feeling like I belong. We have so many wonderful friends in Portland and so many like-minded folks who just “get” us. For example, my running buddies and I share a love of delicious breakfast (OK, bacon) after a long run at one of the many outrageously delicious restaurants in the Pearl District. We shared fun trivia nights with friends, trips to Mt Hood to go night skiing at Skibowl and hiking in the Columbia River Gorge. Then, there’s the shared viewpoints.. Everyone thinks it’s important to recycle, for example. In the Colorado high country, it’s downright challenging to find a place to recycle sometimes (in 2016!! Terrible, right?). Having something in common with your neighbors and friends, or a sense of community, is so important.
Home is also made up from a sense of place. Colorado feels like home, partly because everyone in Colorado is super into COLORADO. The flag is on everything. Seriously… Everything. Sometimes, it’s an attitude that creates a sense of place. In the Northwest, everyone really prides themselves on the ability to tolerate rain and crap weather all the time. Everyone grows Rhodedendrons, which is the state flower. We all love and admire Mt Hood and Mt Rainier, when they pop out of the clouds. Portland loves their food cart pods. All these things lend a state of familiarity and a sense of belonging.
Then there’s a more visceral sense of home. Sometimes, standing out in my yard in Colorado, I suddenly feel as if I’m standing in front of the ranger station at Big Prairie in Montana. We’ve spent so much time there and it’s a place that is full of wonderful memories for both Brian and I. It’s little things, like the smell of pine trees and lupine on the wind, the big open sky and the distant murmuring of the creek takes me right back to the front porch of Big Prairie. I know the smell of Washington, DC when the cherry blossoms are out and the feel of the sticky southern heat. I remember the feeling of rowing on the river in Tennessee with the smell of bread baking across the river at 7am. I think of the smell of earth and flowers in Portland after a good rain. All these little things make me feel more at home than anything else.
To me, that’s the most powerful sense of home. A smell, a familiar sight, a feeling… All related to great memories and great people. But there are so many things that make someplace feel like home. Maybe home really is just “where the heart is.”
What makes a place home to you?