Ever wonder what makes us feel familiar and attached to particular places? This issue is one that has been swimming around in my head for sometime now. In order to experience somewhere as familiar, probably requires a person to have been away from a particular place and space of knowing for some time. It can be cultural as well as geographical, I suspect.
We all know of people who spend most of their years in a one cultural environment and then re-connect to their country, culture, religion of their birth later in life. I think I understand this bit. I assume that to have an innate understanding of a culture or place and yet not be able to participate and feel really connected must at times have a hollow ring to it. The pull to re-connect must be very strong for some individuals.
Life stage is also a big factor in why some people want to pursue deeper and closer ties to their past. As younger people we are full of developmental tasks to achieve, school, university, jobs, travel, partnering, parenthood, houses, mortgages, achievements and many, many more stressors and joys that come our way. It isn’t perhaps, until we have cleared the deck of some of the above that we start to reflect and think about who we really are and where our places of familiarity are.
Today, as I sometimes do, I returned briefly to my home town to visit the cemetery. The sun shone and the paddocks flanking the road sides were lush and green. I inhaled the essence of a place that I grew up in…try explaining that to someone who thinks there is now such thing as familiar place and space! Whenever I return I have the same reaction despite the fact that many things have changed in my old home town. It’s akin to pulling on an old pair of gloves, they fit and you hardly know they are on your hands…
It’s not that I want to return and live in the place of my birth and childhood, I have a full life outside that familiar space now but I do instantly recognise a comfortable feeling of returning. This space is where I am historically connected, regardless of where I have been and what I have done in the meantime. However, it needs to be acknowledged that for some people, not all early connections and experiences are positive and the feelings of familiarity that I’m referring to often bring distress and personal pain.
I’m fortunate, my place and space has many good memories and feelings. My parents, grandparents and extended family lived mostly in this small town, a town that I now visit for a smell of nostalgia and a calm feeling of wellbeing. And so, to wander in the autumn sun on familiar soil, to see the gum trees glisten in the background is to feel the pull of all things familiar. I don’t have words for the sensation that enters my being when I am there, it’s a sort of knowing and belonging that I never experience anywhere else…
Heather I think I know what you are saying. It is like wearing a glove that fits, it’s a feeling hard to describe, but you did it well. I am drawn to the areas where I grew up as a child, but even more strangely when I visited the UK on two occasions, I felt this was home, that this is the place I should have grown up in. Perhaps because my mother is English, but I am so drawn to it and I cannot fathom why.
Yes, a strange thing but we know it when we experience it…many thanks for your comments.