Since I've been back in Seattle, family life back in Ohio has continued to happen: my mother's brother, who was also on hospice for cancer, passed away two nights ago and my cousin and his wife had their first child. When it rains it pours, as they say.
All of this death and new life has me in a particularly reflective mood lately, and I'm needing to process the thoughts and emotions that the trip back home brought up.
For the first time since we've been back from New Zealand, going back to Ohio felt like going home in a positive way. I'd almost forgotten what it feels like to be surrounded by family, and I'd completely forgotten the sort of tranquil beauty that the Ohio countryside can possess on its best (and my most melancholy) days. After living on Capitol Hill for so long, it was also refreshing to be somewhere so unpretentious. Shopping at a department store didn't feel like a point of shame the way it does when you're surrounded by a bunch of high-school mentality hipsters and self-righteous liberals. I came away with the sense that there was something important there that I need to figure out how to hold on to, being on the opposite side of a large continent.
Like anyone who moves around a lot though, I've realized that I've probably lost the potential to experience the sense of home that those who stay rooted possess. My parents have been in the same area and the same culture for 54 years. They've become a part of the place. I broke ranks at 18, and now don't totally identify with anywhere--except maybe the airport. I'm constantly weighing pros and cons of places. Maybe I can get past that. I don't know. I do know that the moment I start to feel like a place is home--Ohio, New Zealand, Seattle, whatever--I start thinking about other places that might be better. Bloody wanderlust. My trip back to Ohio this time felt in a lot of ways like a warm embrace by my people: I was with my whole immediate family, I saw friends from years ago, I heard my childhood minister preach, and honestly, not much has changed there other than possibly a little bit of rust-belt economic decline. Still though, the palpable religious, political and cultural conservatism (of a tall-poppy syndrome type) felt almost immediately stifling and a little bit threatening after years in liberal enclaves, and despite the surprising amount of subtle beauty and cool urbanism, the Ohio landscape felt bleak, depressing and industrial in comparison to NZ or the PNW.
I'm trying to figure out how to integrate place and history into my experience without trying to relive it.