Place and Self


I’m flying to Utah today for a visit to my hometown. I love going to Logan and part of me thinks it is just because my parents and all my siblings and their families live there. But when I try to imagine the place without the people that make it special (say, for example, they all up and relocated to Oregon or something), I still see myself wanting to go back to visit the beautiful canyons and hiking trails, favorite old stomping grounds, historical landmarks and the center street homes, and the university. It really wasn’t that long ago when I was pretty excited to move away, to live somewhere new, do things on my own, and raise my children somewhere outside the homogeneous Utah culture I grew up in. But lately I find myself wanting to move back. There is just something endearing to me about the place. It has lots of character. Irvine on the other hand, where I am currently residing, seems so generically suburban and over-planned. I just don’t see myself growing to love a place like this. Since we are only here for another year or two, tops, I think I won’t have to.

On a side-note, I think this is an idea I have been considering ever since I went to hear Terry Tempest Williams do a reading here at UC Irvine. She writes a lot about places and how they inform her identity–and quite beautifully, in fact. (I think that was the same visit during which Jana interviewed her.)

Is part of your sense of self related to a geographic location? Do you feel attached to your hometown? If not, is there another place you are attached to (maybe where you live now or somewhere else)? Why do you think you feel that way? Maybe you don’t feel attached to a specific place, but many places. Or maybe for you, there is something attractive about moving frequently and getting a taste for different locations. Have your feelings regarding this matter ever gone through a significant change?

Brooke

I am a children's librarian. I have 2 kids. I have a professor for a husband. I obsess about writing and about making things.

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  1. Sue says:

    Nonsensical ramble ahead: I was born and raised in Las Vegas and lived there until a couple of years ago, when I moved to Utah. Las Vegas is so incredibly ugly – it gives deserts a bad name. It’s not really a desert – it’s just dirt and wind and sun.

    I never really understood people feeling love for nature or feeling connected to a place or an environment, until I moved out of Las Vegas. Now I love being outdoors. I love just riding my bike all over, looking at things. Our home backs up to a nature preserve and I love just walking around, sitting and appreciating it all. It seems miraculous to me – the beauty of everything, the scope, the detail – all of it. I can’t stop looking at the mountains. They stir something inside of me. I love the fall colors and the spring colors and everything about being outdoors here. I love the seasons. In the winter I love the snow. I love watching it fall, love seeing it coat the mountains and benches. It’s all very magical to me after living somewhere completely barren for so long. We went for a drive in Cottonwood Canyon last weekend and I just couldn’t stop staring and exclaiming. Those mountains feel like home to me.

  2. ECS says:

    Have fun in Logan! My family lives there, too. I love seeing them and enjoying the beauty of Cache Valley. I’m still pining away for my daily mountain bike rides up the River Trail. Man. Those were the days.

  3. paula says:

    Well, for me, my “place” is Cache Valley, so no good discussion here– you’ve mostly said it all. Although Logan’s being taken over by the big boxes, and cookie cutter subdivisions, there’s still a lot of beauty and individuality left in the older neighborhoods. I live in the San Diego area,have been here seven years, and it’s still not home. Too crowded, anonymous, and bland. When I get back to Utah, even the weather perks me up and makes me feel at home. Here the sky is always kinda blue grey, it’s always kinda humid, kinda warm… I prefer a place with real weather, and real character.

  4. Brooke says:

    ECS: I love the river trail too!

    Paula: I am also a bit disappointed by the developing that has taken place in Logan since I moved away. But it’s true there are still those stashed-away corners with character to them. And I am sometimes bored with the Southern California weather, although it is a great convenience when you have small children like me. Playing outside everyday is no big deal. But I do so miss real seasons.

  5. Ana says:

    Cache Valley is kind of a special place! My dad grew up in Logan and my mom’s parents moved to Lewiston for a while, so there were many years when we spent our summer vacations with grandparents in Cache Valley. I also have an uncle in Cove, which I think should maybe be called Eden instead. So beautiful, and it’s always fun to walk to another state. For all my complaining when I was a teenager who wanted to be home with my friends, I really enjoyed those Cache Valley vacations.

    We lived in Salt Lake and Provo for ten years before moving to central California three years ago. Our visit to Utah this past weekend was the first time I didn’t get that “I’m home” feeling driving east on I-80 to check on our little house in Sugarhouse. What I felt going up Millcreek Canyon at sunset was wonder, but not the comfort of home. Instead, I felt it descending the off-ramp from the highway into our little agriculture-based town. That’s a big transition. I need to take some time this weekend and enjoy the place I’m in now, in honor of that, I think!

  6. Lucy says:

    I lived in Logan for two years and love it for many of the reasons you state. Most of the friends we made those two years have moved, but I still find joy in visiting the beautiful valley.
    I have always enjoyed the adventure of moving, but now that my son is older it feels like our family needs to settle down. We have only been in our current home for a year, but both my husband and I feel the moving bug. I think, though, we will be staying here for awhile.

  7. Brooke says:

    Lucy: I know what you mean about the moving bug. When I was first married, we moved (at least) once a year. But as my son enters grade school, have more of a desire to stay put somewhere. I just wonder where that will be.

    Ana & Sue: I’m so glad we share a love of Utah’s landscapes.

  8. Julie says:

    I am absolutely related to the coast – the WEST coast. And I appreciate the invitation to think of it as a relationship. I grew up in Los Angeles, frequented the beach, and spent the last 7 years outside of San Francisco. Now that we’re in Utah, I long for the ocean and beaches of Santa Monica and Carmel, and the bridges in N. California. I think that the mountains of Utah have already started to attach to me in the same way.

  9. AmyB says:

    I have very fond memories of Logan. I absolutely loved my four years there while attending USU. I found all of Cache Valley beautiful and charming, full of character. I don’t think I could live there again though.

    I’m now a big city girl, through and through. I love that everything I need is within walking distance from my house, from the laundromat to the diner to the grocery store to the gym. I love the old men that gather on the corner. I love being surrounded by people and feeling the vibrant energy of the city. It’s become part of my identity. I am a New Yorker, and proud of it. The place I grew up no longer feels like home or a place I could live again. Relationship of place to identity is interesting to explore.

  10. Deborah says:

    Brooke:

    This post must have hit a nerve because it made it into my dreams last night. My subconscious travelled me back to the summer before I began college and told me to look around at the Utah mountains, because they’d never be home again. I imagine I’ll always feel some connection to the Utah landscape. But in those odd occasional moments of homesickness, it is Boston I yearn for — the place where I became an adult. In particular, the cobblestones between the Harvard Square T stop and the Cambridge Chapel is almost sacred ground. I’ll have to go back and think about when that shift in “homes” occured . . .

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