Wednesday, November 10, 2010


I recently moved back to my hometown to attend graduate school, and it was only this week that the words home and town seemed like two such disparate worlds.

What is home? Home is a reflection of body memory. A sensual experience involving the food I grew up eating, the smell of our house on cold nights in late winter, the sounds of the records that sometimes skipped while my dad and I washed the after dinner dishes. The awareness that wherever I went there were people I knew.

What is town? Town is a small place, in which social circles overlap so dizzyingly that there are rarely moments of quiet, despite the wide expanse of dried safflower and last season's tomatoes. Town is a place where people gather for the sake of gathering, where my grocer knows my rabbi, who knows my previous employer, who knows my parents and back again. And occasionally they all gather, and when I do go to the farmer's market, the wealth of social knowledge is so abundant that there is simply no way to just walk, and walk, and not talk.

I wonder at what point in our lives we stop longing. For years, I wanted nothing more than to get further away, and further away still, as if with every mile I was proving the power of independence, of unleashed, unabashed curiosity about the world. And yet, each time I moved, I took with me a sense of what I had left behind. I carried photographs of my family and friends, longed for that nuclear sense of familiarity, missed what it felt like to be somewhere where people knew you were before you opened your mouth.

But what happens when you move back, and the dialogue picks right back up where you left off?

It's not a question of good or bad, or even better or worse. It is a revision of memory, a rewriting of the way things used to smell or taste, a new concept of the way you understand your immediate world. And sometimes, I worry that by coming home to work and study, I'm not properly home, but rather just back in town.


RachelVB said...

I've wondered a lot about home. I'm moved so damn much to places. I've orphaned myself in Texas, on the East Coast and I don't think it was until a couple of years ago that I realized "home" in the sense of home, the home I knew in Davis, doesn't really exist anymore. What I discovered was that I needed to make a home within myself, get cozy in the cracks of me, so that wherever I went I could take it with me.
Thank you for letting me remember where I came from. And yet sometimes I still miss it so much, miss something that even if I came back to would never be the same.

miss J. said...

Hi Rachel,

Wonder no longer - Davis is as Davis always was, in many ways. ;) Which I guess can be unnerving. It sounds like you have built a solid home for yourself wherever you are, which is awesome. I admire the way you have done that, and made a creative and engaging life in many places.

By the way - just caught up with your blog and you are amazing. So disciplined! And amazing prose...

All the best-


RachelVB said...

Yeah, I bet it is just the same - just a few different stores. =)
I would shrivel up and die if I couldn't be creative - no matter where I was. I think something finally just clicked and I was like "my home is me"
That and as I was going through all of this angst in my mind and body and writing it all down in my journal, I turned to a page that my friend's daughter drew on a few days before (I had no idea what she was drawing by the way, just that she drew something on a blank page) and it turns out she drew a house. Something really close to her heart, the first thing that popped into her head to draw.
That was a pretty clear sign to me.

Thanks about the blog! That's so sweet of you. It's a place to practice. I like that it's prose to you - mostly I feel like it's the ramblings in my brain, but the more I do it the easier it is when I actually sit down to write poems. It helps maintain that voice through the day.