wanderers or meanderers: how to find a place to call home

Asheville, NC looking west toward Blue Ridge Mountains.Asheville, NC looking west toward Blue Ridge Mountains.

My sister says I have the “wanderer-gene”. While there is some scientific evidence of such a gene, related perhaps to those who migrated great distances or populations with a history of travel, I can’t dispute the fact that, from afar, wandering from place to place seems one of the central themes of my adult life. I’ve always felt a person who needed a home base, whether physically or psychologically, that place to which my heart and memories adhere and my yearnings attach when I’ve been away for too long. Perhaps those feelings are related to the fact that I’ve lived in many places across the continental US, including up and down the length of California. Each move in itself had a logical reason, but taken together they could be viewed as a winding course, from job to job (either mine or my spouse’s), opportunities grabbed, decisions made, changes of heart. Yet, there is likely a pattern here that has a connecting thread if one delved deeply into the course of many years of little decisions becoming life’s changing points.

My boys are also wanderers, lovers of travel to far-flung places, active in their search for creative jobs, for agency in their lives and those of their families. This fall, Christopher begins a year-long fellowship at the National Humanities Center in Durham, NC, working on his third philosophy book. The institute’s focus, to advance humanistic study and reflection, fits him well. Alex will be in Paris studying for an MBA at the Sorbonne. He’s taking a break from television to do some free-lance writing, to study, and to travel.

Once again, Doug and I are at a bend, really, more of a sharp left turn in the road. This year’s pandemic has been unsettling, not least of which tied to my anxiety about being able to visit my sons and grandchildren, none of whom live within easy driving distance of Boulder. I ached during the first months of stay-at-home, disconnected from nearby friends, certainly, but the distance to family felt insurmountable. We depend on airplanes to gather together; they are no longer reliable means of transport. I do not know when or if we will have the ease of travel that we once had in the near or medium-term future.

A decision was made about the type of life we want to live during the remaining twenty or thirty years (I am very optimistic about my family’s history of longevity, although the billions of people sharing this planet may have more impact on how long I live than anything I can individually influence) we have on this Earth. Family is my top priority, which at this juncture means disruption to my life, my community, my deep friendships, my daily activities.

We are moving to be closer to our family and to live in a milder climate. We will spend the year in Asheville, NC. IF that works for us, it may become our permanent residence (although the word “permanent” is uttered in our home, its absence is more often the operative driver). This decision is opportunistic, seemingly hasty (but not within the context of the hundreds of hours of discussions we’ve had over the years), scary, exhilarating, complicated.The iconic Flagstaff Mountains.

The iconic Flagstaff Mountains, only a few blocks from our home in Boulder.

I love my community here in Colorado, the philanthropic work I’ve been honored to do, the friends I’ve made, the trails I’ve run, the neighborhoods I’ve explored, all with Flagstaff Mountain as the lodestar pulling us together. But I cannot bear the uncertainly of not being able to see our grandchildren and their parents. In Asheville, we’ll be a few hours’ drive from them, being able to join the family on weekend outings, perhaps have our grandson spend some time just with us. After this year, if we are still in NC, we’ll be within drivable distance of their home in Pennsylvania. We’ll be several time-zones closer to Alex. Maybe even a trip or two to Paris if Americans are allowed to visit! I am researching women’s foundations and organizations in the Asheville area, hoping to continue my Zoom piano lessons with my fantastic, dear piano teacher, Rose, planning trips to the West Coast to visit my siblings, knowing how important these connections have been and will continue to be to me even as I move away. Janet probably isn’t quite right: I’d not describe us as wanderers, as that implies moving without a fixed goal; maybe we’re more meanderers, following a winding road to find a place to call home that fits most of our goals.

1 thought on “wanderers or meanderers: how to find a place to call home”

  1. Such a wonderful expression- and so very focused on just the right things…I hope to stay connected to you on your next phase and maybe see you once we all are back moving around more—while I wait– a Zoom piano teacher with someone you think is awesome would be a wonderful gift to me! could you share the information?….My baby grand is very lonely waiting for one of us to take a seat again and play….. Big hugs— safe travel- enjoy the journey!


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