It has been another gorgeous day in Brittany, with the wind all a-bluster and the sun half in, half out. Probably 10 degrees C, a little chillier than you’d usually wish for with gales like we had, but really not that bad. Spent the day outside, weeding and watering in the wind, daydreaming.
Sometimes I feel like a modern Anne-of-Green-Gables, with the amount I daydream. But where hers were (as a child) daydreams about fantastical adventures and romances and ghosts, mine are mostly about Home. Home is this magical place where I get to live the life I want, and have everything I wish I did, from what plants are in my garden and how to the kind of windows and what direction they’ll face. So much of my life now is looking at other people’s homes and thinking, “Ooh, that’s ingenious!” or “I’d do that completely differently.” Regardless of details, however, place is the most important thing for me, and perhaps also the most…I think stressful is the right word, yes. You see, I would like to find a place that feels like home before I put my garden there, you know? I don’t believe, after my experiences in Vancouver, that it is always the people, and not the place, that makes it home. For two years, I lived with wonderful people, and still was horribly homesick for a place I had never been before, and for a life I had yet to lead.
Since leaving Vancouver, I have been spending a lot of time thinking about where home would be. What would go into making a place feel like home. I still don’t have that fully answered. But I have been learning. One thing I’ve found is that first impressions do indeed matter. My first impressions of Vancouver were of moving to a strange house and trying to get to know new people, who, though lovely, were so busy that they weren’t able to devote time to really getting to know me until months later. Whereas the places that I have come to remember with the pangs of homesickness (such as the last place I stayed in Ireland, and as this place will come to be when I leave) have been incredibly welcoming communities, filled with love and affection and good humor and the spirit of companionship. So is it any wonder that now, when I think of Vancouver, I am depressed and scared about going back there, and when I think about Brittany I get a thrill like I’ve found a place to call home?
Another thing is the weather. I grew up with sunlight and wind, and so I feel most at home when the sun shines strongly and the wind could carry me away. Vancouver, bless it, is nestled in a bowl of mountains, and the prevailing winds stall out there and swirl, and so it tends to be a still, damp place, and as Ian says, we’re “under the cloud” for about nine months of the year. Which makes me want to die. Here in Brittany, though it does rain, the weather also changes frequently and quickly. We have more days where everything happens than days when only one thing happens. I love that. It can be frustrating if you are trying to work outside, but gods, is it wonderful if you like your clouds and sun to punctuate one another.
These above things are understandable to most people, and can be described fairly succinctly. Some others, however, cannot be so easily explained. For example, it is important to me who a place is: Ireland is, to me, a white-skinned woman with jet black hair and green-gold eyes, watchful and judgmental, as though she’s saying, “So you love my music, and you love this place, but you don’t know who I am.” It is reproachful, but she is so beautiful, and I know that when you get to know her she will show herself to you, with her laughter and tears and songs. But you have to get there first. Vancouver feels like a middle-aged First Nations man, also reproachful, very distrustful, with his cedar-bark cape and woven hat, disturbed by our destruction of his forests and family, and almost always unsmiling. I have never been able to imagine his face, for he always has his back to me. Both Ireland and Vancouver speak in languages I do not understand, he in a tongue no longer living, she in a tongue poorly revived. But the things is: sometimes, Ireland forgets you’re there, and she walks with the mist giants moving through the hills, and flashes white on the ocean, and shines the greenest of greens in the grasses of the hills, and you know that somewhere she is smiling, or being mysterious, or imagining times of her own. Vancouver, though, probably because I have little experience with the land outside the city, feels constantly oppressed, and is therefore constantly acrid. Even when the weather tries to shake him out of his funk, he funks unremittingly. Some days when I lived there, I’d get out of my funk, but his funk would remind me how unwelcome I felt there, and could sometimes re-funk me. I got re-funked so often, I though I would be defunct before too long! But here in Brittany…I have yet to figure out who this person is, but she’s wild and enthusiastic, and throws herself into things quite readily, and she’s so full of an intense love for the beautiful things that make her herself , that it’s contagious, and I find myself adoring this place more and more every day. Brittany, of all the places I’ve been, seems to have the least displaced sense of self – a lot of the people who live here still speak Breton, and have all their lives; a lot of people here have roots that go back (way back) here, and it’s not just an entire immigrant population, nor, like Ireland, a horribly injured one. It’s just so…lovely. I love this place. I love who she is. And I think we’ll be great friends, if I stick around long enough. Sometimes I feel that we don’t speak the same language well enough, and I know that I’d always be a sort of outsider here, even if I lived in a hypothetical world where I were married to someone from here, or had been living here for thirty years. But also, sometimes, I feel that that just wouldn’t matter.
The only place in the world where I don’t feel like an outsider is Fort Collins, Colorado – but whether that’s a hometown thing or because of who Fort Collins is, I just don’t know. I think it’s both. But what’s interesting to me about that love is that I have always felt that whoever that land is, she utterly ignores the people who live there. There is no interaction at all between them; at least, not a face-to-face one – the land is just too big. But that land-person has fashioned a world and a self-assurance that is a delight to be part of. You can feel that this person is patient and thoughtful, and takes the ever-changing weather with grace. It’s like she has been doing the things she does for so long that they are tradition, and there is a religious amount of intent in her actions. I miss her and her upright back, her firm countenance. I miss her with every breath.
For this reason, I have a feeling that I shall always be looking for someone with her dusty, spicy smell and her rustling speech, her grumbling mountain knees and her swift changing skies. Sometimes I find pieces of her in gardens where the loam of the earth can catch my nose (and I remember late April evenings fading into twilight, with the humidity of the grass cooling into the soft dampness of spring), or when I hear the slipping of leaves against each other (and I find myself in a forest of aspen trees, alive with ripples of wind), or the sharp tang of light on green grasses, or the rumble of thunder, or…millions of little tiny things. I find them under my nose here in Brittany. I found such mystery in Ireland, and such alien things in Los Angeles (where my mother now lives), such a buzz of activity in Boston and such a wandering depression in Vancouver – and now here, at last, I am finding pieces of home. Many, many pieces. So many that some days, I feel like I could just settle down here and call it good. Have my garden. Build my house. And finally be back at home.