When Does a Place Become Home?

Travel Vintage Posters 139We’ve been in Colorado for almost two months. I have a Colorado state driver’s license. I don’t get lost on runs in the neighborhood anymore. And yet—it doesn’t feel like we’ve moved. Robert and I were saying the other day that we just feel like we’re staying in Colorado for the summer—like it’s temporary. I still think of California as home—maybe I always will, since I spent most of the first 30 years of my life there.

I don’t envision a future in Colorado. Is that what makes a place home? Not just roots, but a vision of bearing fruit in the new place? Careers, kids, friendships…multiplying and flourishing, instead of the kind of tranquil yet sterile static one experiences on vacation.

It’s the people that make a place, I’ve always believed, but it’s hard to make friends in a new city, a new state. For Robert and me, church is the best place to do that, but even then, it takes time. How can a place feel like home without the people that make it such?

And of course, technology plays its own part in our adjustment, or maladjustment, depending on the day. Social media and the Internet allow one to leave a place without really leaving it, and arrive at a place without really being there. My Facebook and Instagram feeds are the same whether I’m in California or Colorado. I’m simultaneously experiencing not only my own “place” but the places where my friends and family reside, as well. Place is collapsed through the digital sharing of our particular places, and the singularity of the place I find myself in is blurred by the onslaught of images and tidbits from other corners of the country and the world.

I’m not yet in tune with this state, like I was with California. At home, I knew the scent of fall (a superpower California natives possess, while people from other states complain about the “lack of seasons”). I knew the sandy brown of the hills on either side of the 210 freeway, the way oak trees looked at any given time of the year, the smell of eucalyptus and jasmine mixed with pool chlorine and fresh cut grass from cultivated neighborhoods. I knew how to get from Point A to Point B using all of “the” right freeways—“you take the 110 to the 5 to the 10 to the 710 to the 405…” I knew which beaches were too dirty to swim in, which would be crowded with families and which others were perpetually overcast. I knew when wildfire weather was upon us, and what to do if an earthquake hit.

But in Colorado, I’m bewildered by the thunderstorms that pass through in the afternoons, the pea-sized hail we experience on a blazing summer’s day. Even though I know the mountains don’t change their location, I haven’t yet been able to use them as a navigational landmark (in Pasadena, the mountains were north, with the city laid out in a grid below them—too easy). This morning on my run I kept smelling some type of peppery plant, almost like arugula, and was mystified. The drivers are slow and distracted, the cashiers at grocery stores almost alarmingly friendly. Everyone drives a Subaru. The sun feels stronger here, I guess because we’re closer to it. I see more people walking around with oxygen tanks, due to the altitude. Non-white ethnic groups are often mysteriously absent from wherever we are. We’ve had two tornado warnings, and I have no idea what to do if one comes near our third-floor apartment.

These random differences in the place we’re now living are part of the reason I was keen to move. When people ask why, I often say, “We needed a change of scenery.”

What I didn’t prepare myself for, though, was the process of new scenery becoming a new home.


2 thoughts on “When Does a Place Become Home?

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  1. “What I didn’t prepare myself for, though, was the process of new scenery becoming a new home.” Yes, I understand your thoughts! While we just moved from Oregon to a tiny village overseas, your whole post put to words many of my own contemplations.


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