the wings of the morning

Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?

Monday, May 01, 2006

sunday scribblings - why i live where i live

Nowhere else smells like New England.

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.


Blogger Left-handed Trees... said...

Very sweet--I laughed at the "Nowhere else smells like New England. I'm tempted to leave it at that." It's amazing how the senses can be so profound...thanks for sharing this one!

5/01/2006 4:50 PM  
Blogger Kara said...

I like how you took this in the direction of smell. I'm catching up on blogging - so I just read your last three posts. I do hope your birthday was good. My mother had me at age 42 - so to me it seems like a possible age and I wish you well with it.

5/01/2006 6:24 PM  
Blogger Kim G. said...

I visited Boston two years ago for a wedding and fell in love with the area. I can't wait to go back someday to explore more of this part of the country. Thanks for sharing your view of "home" with us!

5/01/2006 7:49 PM  
Blogger paris parfait said...

You're fortunate to live in such a beautiful area. I like your wry comments about your life.

5/02/2006 5:51 AM  
Blogger Teri said...


Since I'm in the mind of home lately, this really touched me and reminded me of how New England, of all the places I've lived, is really my heart's true home.

As I read this, I found myself back on Route 2, breathing in all the different smells from Greenfield to Cape Ann. :)

5/02/2006 11:33 AM  
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5/02/2006 12:05 PM  
Blogger Julie said...

That was YUMMY and I gobbled it up! Someday I'll have to visit that part of my little country!

In the meantime, I'll love my city by the bay for summer warmth that arrives in spring and winter chill that arrives in summer.

5/02/2006 8:36 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

I loved this post. I really enjoyed your remarks about the idea of not needing to be overly polite or chatty. I miss the annonymity of San Francisco for this reason. I'm now in a town where everyone wants to chat...

5/02/2006 11:16 PM  
Blogger Jana B said...

Interesting... I've never been to New England (the farthest Northeast I've been is to Washington DC) but you definately make it sound like somewhere I'd like to visit! (Sorry, too cold to live there... )

I've added your blog to my list of "Blogs not to read at work"... I happened to read this:

"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."

as I was answering the phone here, and it was all I could do to suppress the laughter that visual caused!!!!

So people in NE have the freedom to be selectively social and it's not a bad thing huh? The more I think about that, the better it sounds!

5/05/2006 10:42 AM  

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