While herons, gray whales and monarchs all migrate as a means of survival, humans migrate every summer for sanity. Yes, the weather may be nicer on the coast of California than the Hades of Bullhead City, Ariz., right now, but, due to modern conveniences like air conditioning, it’s not so much a means of having enough to eat or freezing to death like our simpler earthen brethren.
And then again, there is the migration from one side of the country to the other for the sake of financial survival: work. Obviously, we are given to go, when sufficiently pressed or motivated, to seek out employment in a landscape vastly different than that to what we are accustomed. As long as there is a (heaven help us) Walmart nearby where they can still get cheap crud, as so many households seem to require, they’re good to go.
All these thoughts billow about as I ponder the conversation with my last massage client at a local hotel yesterday. This, coupled with a recent article in Utne Reader: “Where are you from?” Always the proverbial can of worms.
Living in a tourist-supported town, I’ve long enjoyed seeing how people answer this question. Heck, Love of My Life even amuses me with how he answers it. It usually depends on who is asking and how long a period of time he has to answer it. (I’ve found that many people take that into consideration.)
“I’m from New Orleans! But I’m now in L.A.” As it turned out, I could relate to him on both places, as my father’s family was from the same great city in Louisiana since the mid-1800s, and I myself hail from all places “L. A.” But, living in Cambria for most of my life, where am I from when I’m not here?
From “Where Are You From?” (Utne, July 2012): “What I am grappling with here is the distinction between the idea of living in place and the fact of living in it. … I belong to it now, and I have the chance to pay attention, to be present here, now.”
Is it a matter of time, how many speeding tickets you’ve gotten in one state — or simply where you were born that gives one that sense of belonging?
The article I read was sparked by the author’s own daughters’ immediate declaration of their point of origin. My two boys can do similarly, although, due to more-years-there-than-Zachary, Miles can call the greater Portland, Oreg., area home now. His younger brother is still “from Cambria” for the moment, even while looking for his first apartment up there.
And, as much as it makes me cringe that he’s already gotten his second tattoo, it does show a nod to his and his mother’s roots. With a rather Hawaiian flare (it was a dorm-mate from there that did it), he got an outline of California, a grizzly bear and a palm tree. Obviously a pine tree would have spoken more loudly of Cambria, but that’s OK.
So, if you’ve got a moment, ask someone where they’re from and see what happens. Meanwhile, live in the moment. I think that’s the best place to be.