I Call This Home

According to Yuan, a

… profound attachment to the homeland appears to be a worldwide phenomenon. It is not limited to any particular culture and economy. It is known to literate and nonliterate peoples, hunter-gatherers, and sedentary farmers, as well as city dwellers. The city or land is viewed as mother, and it nourishes; place is an archive of fond memories and splendid achievements that inspire the present; place is permanent and hence reassuring to man, who sees frailty in himself and chance and flux everywhere.

It seems notable that “homeland,? at least as used here, is not as broad of a category as “country:?

Place exists at different scales. At one extreme a favorite armchair is a place, at the other extreme the whole earth. Homeland is an important type of place at the medium scale. It is a region (city or countryside) large enough to support a people’s livelihood. Attachment to the homeland can be intense.

That’s an interesting definition, one that might actually fit me. While I have no blind allegiance to the United States as a whole, I could rightfully be accused of nearly blind allegiance to the Pacific Northwest, an area that might include British Columbia, Western Washington, Western Oregon, and Northwestern California.

Still, I was a little surprised to learn that even in modern times people everywhere

… tend to regard their own homeland as the center of the world. A people who believe they are at the center claim, implicitly, the ineluctable worth of their location. In diverse parts of the world this sense of centrality is made explicit by a geometrical conception of space oriented to the cardinal points. Home is at the center of an astronomically determined spatial system. A vertical axis, linking heaven to the underworld, passes through it. The stars are perceived to move around one’s abode; home is the focal point of a cosmic structure.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised since I spent much of my teaching career teaching American Literature, where one finds strong overtones suggesting that America is God’s promised land and that we are the ultimate fulfillment of Biblical predictions. Certainly more than one author suggested that America was the New Eden and The Promised Land. Sorry, but I could never buy into that concept.

Still, I find that:

A homeland has its landmarks, which may be features of high visibility and public significance, such as monuments, shrines, a hallowed battlefield or cemetery. These visible signs serve to enhance a people’s sense of identity; they encourage awareness of and loyalty to place. But a strong attachment to the homeland can emerge quite apart from any explicit concept of sacredness; it can form without the memory of heroic battles won and lost, and without the bond of fear or of superiority vis-à-vis other people. Attachment of a deep though subconscious sort may come simply with familiarity and ease, with the assurance of nurture and security, with the memory of sounds and smells, of communal activities and homely pleasures accumulated over time. It is difficult to articulate quiet attachments of this type. Neither the rhetoric of an Isocrates nor the effusive prose of a German Volkskalender seems appropriate. Contentment is a warm positive feeling, but it is most easily described as incuriosity toward the outside world and as absence of desire for a change of scene.

best describes my attitude toward the Pacific Northwest. I would have been perfectly content to have never left the Puget Sound area. When all my immediate family lived here, I was perfectly content to take my vacations in the nearby mountains or at the beach and had no desire to travel to faraway places. When friends suggested that I should hike Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness, the Grand Tietons, or other well-known hikes, I merely replied that I doubted I would ever be able to hike all the spots I wanted to see in the North Cascades.

3 thoughts on “I Call This Home”

  1. The following quote appears on the screen at the beginning of a movie called Gods and Generals, which is a story about the American Civil War. The quote came to my mind as I have been reading your recent posts about Time and Place.

    “A human life, I think, should be well rooted in some spot of a native land, where it may get the love of tender kinship for the face of the earth, for the labors men go forth to, for the sounds and accents that haunt it, for whatever will give that early home a familiar unmistakable difference amidst the future widening of knowledge. The best introduction to astronomy is to think of the nightly heavens as a little lot of stars belonging to one’s own homestead.” (George Eliot)

    My “homestead” has expanded to include the Pacific Northwest, as you defined it, as I was born and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and have lived all of my adult life in Northwestern Washington. It would be interesting to know how people in other parts of the country and world define their “homestead” territory.

  2. I agree, Amanda, hopefully other bloggers will leave a note if they define their homstead country.

    There used to be a group of bloggers who wrote about “place” and focused on a weekly quote or theme. Sites like Middlewesterner or Fragments of Floyd.

    That may well be where this blog has been heading, though my first love would still have to be poetry, particularly poetry of place.

  3. Since losing my home to Hurricane Rita, I’ve had to rethink my definition of home. Reading the book “Home: A Short History of an Idea” by Witold Rybczynski has helped me along that path, one it seems that you are treading, too, though in a larger sense.

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