My answer to the question, “Where are you from?” depends on my mood.
If I want to keep it simple, I just say, “A small town in Georgia, near Atlanta, in the Southern part of the US.” Sometimes I just don’t want to engage.
If the person seems interesting and I’m feeling talkative, I might let them know that I was born on a little blueberry farm in the Middle of Nowhere, USA, in a state called Indiana, and then my family moved to Georgia, and I have been bouncing around the planet since then. I’ll have to mention that I lived in San Francisco for a while, because I love that city and it significantly increases my cool factor, since the world tends to have a nicer reaction to that place than a bunch of little towns they have never heard of. And finally, I talk about how I was living in Edinburgh, Scotland and most recently moved to London.
I think that through this longer explanation, I’m trying to provide an insight into my life for the stranger (even if they’ve probably zoned out about halfway through). I’m sharing with them that I’m actually not so sure where my Home is. That when I go back ‘Home’ to Georgia, I love seeing my family but I feel no connection at all to the place itself. And that as an adult, I am actively trying to create a sense of Home for myself where there is a harmonious relationship between the internal and external. Where my physical, geographic location integrates with the space within.
Being Home is where the external place nurtures my inner being, and where my inner self cultivates the space. Home is a circuit.
I developed the idea of a ‘Soul Place’ while living in San Francisco. I felt like the space and timing of living in that city cut right to my core and nurtured my wellbeing. I had the overwhelming feeling that the ethos of the place was bringing together the radical feminist and social justice communities I engaged in, giving us the opportunity to create. While the people I met were intelligent and compassionate, I somehow attributed their awesomeness to San Francisco, thanking the city for bringing us together and allowing all of our best selves to shine through. Despite not being born there and only living there for a year, I felt at Home.
I’ve felt the seedling awareness of Soul Place in other places during my travels. I was in Berlin last week and started to feel it immediately upon my arrival despite the frigid winter temperatures. Walking up the graffiti-filled stairwell in the darkness to the flat where I was staying, I thought, “here it is again.” I’ve felt it in the Appalachian Mountains, I’ve felt it in Rome, I’ve felt it in Santa Teresa in Rio de Janeiro. I’ve felt it in a very particular field in a very particular rural spot in North Carolina. I’m not quite sure what precise characteristics bring on that Soul Place feeling for me; it’s more of an intuitive awareness that happens from spending time with and in the place.
As I explore my awareness of Soul Place and what nurtures my being, I exist in a world with rules and regulations. While my understanding of Home becomes ever more tangled, it seems that Border Control continues to get more and more rigid. The immigration officer could care less about my existential exploration into the idea of Soul Place. “Where are your documents and what are you doing here?” she asks.
In an increasingly globalized world and tangled life, it seems like Home, Soul Place, and Immigration may not all be in harmony all the time. Perhaps instead they form an overlapping Venn diagram, and someday, I will exist in that sweet spot in the middle, where all are aligned.