Geography is ALL

Personal lives, emotional lives, social lives, sex lives, economic lives…blah blah blah…what about our geographic lives?  

  Me

I grew up in the woods at the end of the  gravel road (Minnesota, not Mississippi, otherwise Lucinda Williams Car Tires on a Gravel Road is my childhood memory too). The variety of green available in that world was pretty well covered by the balsam, cedar, spruce, balm of Gilead poplars (baummies to us), aspen/poplars, willows and more surrounding the tiny farmstead and stucco/log house; sometimes in late spring it was seeing all of the world through a kaleidoscope that only included shades of GREEN. And in spite of being rather poor how very secure it was. It was warm in the winter, full of friendly insect life in the summer, big yeasty loaves of white bread baking, maybe cinnamon rolls too, the kind with sour cream topping adding just a touch of tart to the warm sweetness of cinnamon and brown sugar, dogs barked, neighbors came for coffee, an environment that will always represent my version of the nest we probably all need.

This is to say I had a proper nest from which to approach the world. Somehow my apartment in Albuquerque, New Mexico manages to almost equal that early environment: Many trees because I’m near the Rio Grande, just minutes from the Bosque, now they’re cottonwoods and there is never quite the sense of falling into vat of ‘essence of green’, still…, my apartment is small, full of the bright dark colors that everyone says makes rooms seem even smaller, which for me is a goal—just recreated home. So there are not a lot of baking smells, should get a bread machine I guess (sorry, mom) but coffee perking and Amy’s Enchiladas cooking in the microwave supplies a bit of scent to the place.  Besides when I walk by the river in the morning I can smell elephant dung and hear Africa Land awakening at the neighborhood zoo. That is why I do not need to go on safari when in Africa.

HOWEVER IN SPITE OF ALL OF THIS COZY-SOUNDING HOMESPUN RHETORIC, I AM ALWAYS MOVING ON–A NOMAD. Just need a nest to which to return.

Two Kinds of People

There really are only two kinds of people in the world (sometimes the lines blur or the multiple personalities overlap):

  1. People who consider their nest as priority number one. I looked up nest in several on-line dictionaries and it is defined variously as “The place in which one’s domestic affections are centered,” “a cozy or secluded retreat [retreat=a place of privacy, a place affording peace and quiet],” “a place affording snug refuge or lodging—a home.”
  2. People who must wander, who always want to see what is over the next hill or around the next bend. Here my thesaurus gives me nomad, vagrant, itinerant, traveler, rover, rambler, drifter, rolling stone.

We have, then, the nesters and the nomads. Although again we must agree that nesters sometimes want adventure, to see the world’s sights and experience the world’s wonders—but it is probably not their priority. And nomads want to have a nest to which to return for connections, financial regrouping—as in work, the sheer familiarity of one’s own bed and shower.

In my own family there are examples of people confused about the category into which they fit. Robert and Marsha, you know who you are! Looking for the perfect place. Buying houses in Minnesota, Alaska, Florida, trying to love New Mexico where there’s family, maybe loving Louisiana or Alabama or Georgia…but not quite. Not moving beyond U.S. borders much because there is the DOG. But always always looking for the perfect nest while struggling with their evil nomadic twins

Here’s one way to know you’re a nomad. Two nights ago I was trying to shower, doubled over from the pain of an RA flare-up, vomiting up the sole thing I’d eaten in 24 hours. I was in Windhoek, Namibia—a very long way from home. Supposed to take buses over a couple of days to Johannesburg. Pain won the battle, besides which I could not walk, and I spent an extra day feeling lost and sorry for myself in a very foreign city. Early flight yesterday to Jo’burg, to doctor, massive dose of prednisone, night’s sleep and today I’ve planned and finished booking my bus trip and hotel in Gaborone, Botswana tomorrow!

 We all envy each other. The nesters and the nomads. I wonder if it’s nature versus nurture. My family history includes apocryphal stories of gypsies and reindeer herders which generally I choose to believe, not based on fact but if we nomads only relied on fact where would we be—home saving money. And my dad came over from Norway on a ship. So there’s nature for you. I was nurtured in that snug nest ringed by trees so tightly you couldn’t see the storm until it was over your house. I knew I had to move on from a very early age—since my tiny self could turn the pages of mom’s old grade school geography book with the maps everywhere and big hand-colored photos of Rio and Yellowstone Park. Guess nature wins. Although I discovered after many years that my wayfarer father who had an itinerant fiddler for a great-grandfather really hated to leave his northwoods and my mother, who grew up in the relatively stable environment of the Dakota River Valley, was a closet nomad. I should have known since she remembered every single detail of every scrap of geography and history she ever had in school.

Okay…well I will think of this some more as I head up the road to GABORONE. Yes. With one small backpack. What a luxury for a nomad; usually you must take more than clean underwear a couple of books toothbrush billfold lipstick! Jackets tied to backpack in case the bus is cold. OFF TO ANOTHER PASSPORT STAMP.

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