On Place

“Searching” (photo by unknown)

It is my usual habit to get up by 5:30 so I can get at least an hour and half of writing in before going to work. On weekends, I am usually up about the same time, but have even more time to write.

For the most part, I have not been a disciplined person in my life. About this I am.

Summer mornings like this are much easier of course. The windows are open, and light and birdsongs are already streaming in through the open windows.

A week ago Sue and Morgan and I were down in Southwestern Minnesota staying in a cabin on the edge of a ravine in farm country. It was a nice place to write. But so is my office on the second floor of our house overlooking our backyard and our suburban neighborhood.

There are still days that I marvel to find myself living a suburban life in the Midwest. It is so not me or mine, but it is comfortable and familiar nonetheless. We think our life is going to be one thing, but it ends up as something else.

Preparing for a trip back to Montana and talking to my brother Paul for the first time in years has me reminiscing. About the past, about things long buried, about the way life happens.

In my life I have lived in California, Washington, Montana, Minnesota, Illinois, Texas, and Michigan. Each place could have been a stopping point. But for a thousand reasons beyond knowing Minnesota became the place. But I still I carry a part of each place within me.

Mostly though, I carry Townsend Montana. It is the answer I give to the question, “where did you grow up?” Since I lived six years in Santa Cruz, California, then six in Eastern Washington, and then six in Townsend, I could answer that questions three different ways. But I always say, Townsend.

Place matters. It is context and comfort and the lens through which we see a spinning world. It is where we stand most often in our minds when we are lost and trying to make sense of things.

My dad, who is still living, lives in Dillon, Montana, and has now for 40 years. My family moved there between my junior and senior year in high school while I stayed in Townsend to finish my senior year.

My mother, who has been gone for 35 years now, is buried in Dillon. My dad will be too. But Dillon is not home. It is a merely a town in a valley that is beautiful but I feel no real connection to.

Home is a town I lived in for just six years, have re-visited just a handful of times in 39 years, but is always on my mind.


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