Recently, I was invited to join a blogging circle made up of Tara Sophia Mohr, Lianne Raymond (two contemplative thinkers whose writing inspires me) and myself, to consider, together, our response to the recent blogging trend of promoting a lifestyle detached from possessions and place (“location independence”). I’m delighted to be part of this circle and I invite you to visit the blog posts written by Tara and Lianne on the subject.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… I am a wanderer. I am truly happy when I can spend an afternoon wandering aimlessly through an unfamiliar part of the world (or even just my own city), usually with my camera in hand.
I grew up dreaming of being a gypsy. I read every book I could find about gypsies and wanderers. Sometimes I’d pack a lunch, wander into the woods around our farm (on foot or horseback), and pretend I was an explorer, miles from civilization. My friend Laurel and I would build teepees out of dead trees, concoct stews out of garden vegetables over small fire pits, and scheme about how we could live in the woods forever (or at least until the rain or snow chased us into our warm beds), with our horses as our trusted friends and transportation.
Even now, I read books like Tales of a Female Nomad, and I fantasize about selling all of my possessions, packing a backpack and my laptop, and wandering around the globe making my living as a travel writer. Almost every spare dollar I have goes into some version of travel (in fact I leave on another trip this week) – I just can’t get enough of it.
With such wanderlust coursing through my veins, I fully understand the appeal of those bloggers who are following a trend right now to write about reducing our attachments to things and places and choosing a location independent lifestyle (living and working without a permanent home base). I’ll admit it – part of it feels so attractive to me.
But… there’s another side of me that knows that I could not be fully happy without some connection to place. I like to wander, but at the end of my wandering, I like to come home. Not only do I like to come back to a place that feels comfortable, but I like to renew my aquaintance with some of my favourite things. I slip my feet into my worn out old slippers. I curl up under the comforter made from the wool of my dad’s sheep. I drink chai tea from my favourite pottery mug. I pull my favourite books off the over-crowded bookshelf.
This is my place, in this house, in this Canadian prairie city. I am a prairie girl through and through. I have traveled far and wide, and I love the mountains and am drawn to the ocean again and again. But this prairie landscape – these wide open skies, these impossibly flat lands, these rivers and maple trees and tall grasses blowing in the wind – it calls me home again and again. I can be drawn to tears by nothing more spectacular than the way a simple prairie horizon slices through the big, bold, blue sky.
There is just something about the power of place that one cannot fully understand. We are connected to our surroundings and that’s the way the cycle of life is meant to be. I think of the pilgrimages I make on a regular basis – pilgrimage to my home town where echoes of my childhood still reverberate; pilgrimage to my husband’s favourite fishing hole where our relationship has been shaped by this mist on the lake, the loons, and the giant dying tree that – from year to year – has fallen further into the lake; and pilgrimage to our son’s grave where I sit and wait for wisdom to find me. These are all places that are connected to me and through them, I connect to Spirit.
I think there’s a danger in becoming too flippant with our connection to place. A nomadic lifestyle might work for some (and I certainly wouldn’t be one to judge it), but if we as a culture choose transience and lack of connection as the norm, then we risk treating our earth as just another disposable, temporary possession.
Just as yesterday’s styles no longer suit us and closets full of clothing make their way quickly into a trash heap or second hand store, yesterday’s homes and yesterday’s trees and yesterday’s soil become disposable and “not my problem anymore”.
If I don’t fall deeply in love with a place (the kind of love that means being loyal through the ups and downs – including the harsh prairie winters) – if I’m going to move on tomorrow anyway, to the next interesting location – then it doesn’t really matter to me what becomes of the green-space or the landfill sites or the endangered animals.
It might sound simplistic, but I think it’s something we all need to ponder. I think it might be worth considering the different ways that tribes or cultures who have been in one place for generations or centuries treat their homes compared to those who have less of a connection to the place they live. Is there a difference? I suspect there is.
Tonight I took my daughters to see Toy Story 3, another great story in the saga of the toys who want nothing more than to have permanence and to belong to someone who cares about them. As the toys fight to survive a number of evils, including a landfill site where all of the trash gets shredded and burned, they hang onto each other with one belief giving them strength – they belong to somebody and they matter. It’s a beautiful story about how our connections to things can give them life and meaning.
I am not suggesting we should all become materialistic, and I don’t think our possessions should ever hold a higher place in our lives than love and compassion and generosity, but I do think that by honouring our homes and our dearest possessions and the places on which we stand, we show respect and love for the earth and her Creator and all that she provides for us.