sunday scribblings - why i live where i live
I'm tempted to leave it at that. Oh, sure, there are other reasons. I like to live where there are co-ops and ponytailed year-round sandal-wearers and lots of gay people with lots of happy little kids. I can't afford organic food or premium cheeses just now, but I'd hate to live anywhere I had limited access to either. Of course, even for the specialty food and extended movie selection, I'd rather not be a city dweller. I don't like my wildlife sitings to be accompanied by the accute dread for the fate of the animal. The beaver and deer I see around here are at home; I'm the interloper.
I'm also a yankee. I'm independent and rather a smart-ass. It's not that I don't appreciate and enjoy overt friendliness when I visit places to which it seems indigenous; I do. But eventually, I feel exposed and worn out in cultures like that, and I'm glad to return to the optional MYOB, hands-off annonymity of my home. I like the fact that not saying hello to strangers is acceptable and sometimes prefered. I like how honesty is valued just as much if not more than manners. Don't get me wrong - I think our culture as a whole is slipping horrendously in the manners department, and I'm all for genuine kindness and consideration. It's just that - in truth? I prefer bracingly honest rudeness to fake two-faced niceness. If someone wants to say "Kiss my ass," then I wish they'd just come out with it rather than saying "Have a nice day," and MEANING kiss my ass. Or how about those mean fake "smiles" where the corners of the mouth turn up but the eyes scream "Please die." I say, cut the B.S. But I digress.
It's not that we're un-nice around here. We can be friendly. And when it comes down to it, we'll probably do just about anything for a soul in need. We're just not generally... agressively... nice. We can opt to keep to ourselves. We can keep our guard up if that's just how we are. We can stay in a little bubble of rumination or of reverie all day or all our lives if we want to, and it won't be taken personally. We're not expected to chat up the cashier at the market. And even though I can sometimes be a real cashier-chatter-upper, and even though some of the younger chatees adopt a look that suggests they believe themselves to be in a sort of peril, still, I like that.
But - bottom line? Nowhere else smells like home. Every season - every week of every season - there are gradations of change: something different is blooming, or filling up, or getting mowed down or burned, or going fallow. It's complex, of course. Each town has a river or a factory that broadly imprints its unique contribution. Salt water and sand add something different from corn fields or suburban pavement mazes. There are stinky muddy marshes and sunny baseball diamonds, shady rows of maples, dark piney depths and mossy stone walls. Each state has a different smell, like each state has a different feel. (Have you noticed? In many spots, the shift is palpable as you cross the borders.) And there are regional areas, sub-feels, sub-smells.
But all together, New England just smells like home. Many people who live here say they couldn't live without the seasons. That's true for me, too, but - rich spring soil, smoky snappy autumn leaves, hot dusty pavement and thirsty lawns, wet tree bark and snow - I think the shifting pallet of aromas is what's at the root of my love for the seasons themselves.
My house is the most house we could get for the money when it came time to buy. Two years later, we still regularly well up with gratitude at our luck. We love it. It's big and funky and friendly; it's solid. But one of the reasons I knew this was the one was the way the air up and down our street reminded me of the air on the playground at my old elementary school. Home.