A friend of 20 years, who isn't far away himself, sent me an article on homebodies. In this country, we all seem to be able to hold onto distinctly opposing views of mobility at the same time. My Dad, for instance, moved only one county over from his birthplace, to marry and raise his family. Yet he was always considered an outsider, not a native in my hometown. He wasn't rewarded for moving.

At the same time, we Americans have always prided ourselves on our pioneer spirit: territorial expansion, boom towns - California! Our own children are learning from television ads that pure, raw movement generates excitement all by itself. A dancing candy bar, for heaven's sake, is shown to fulfill people's wildest dreams. How dare we stay put in such an atmosphere?

I, for one, am here to stay. "Here" is 1000 miles west of my parents, and 1000 miles east of my brother, and I wish they were here with me. But, we've all established roots in different territories - aspen roots, I think. Cut us down and we sucker right up again in the same spot. We don't transplant well anymore.

I can't leave my trees.

I can't leave my funny old house in the woods. ("You could re-build to your own specifications in New Mexico...") I can't leave my funny herb gardens. ("You could have much bigger ones in Georgia...") I can't leave my friends. Or my memories of friends.

People are always leaving me. Death, divorce, more schooling: they feel the tug and go. I can't follow them; how do I know they'll stay at the next place, or the next? Aspens can't hop-scotch after people like that.

I go out and visit and come home again, and it's right for me. "The man who is often thinking that it is better to be somewhere else than where he is, excommunicates himself," we are cautioned by Thoreau, that notorious stay-at-home. And, "I cannot have a spiritual center without having a geographical one; I cannot live a grounded life without being grounded in a place." (Scott Russell Sanders). May Sarton says we "hold fast, maintain, are rooted, dig deep wells."

In the north countries of Europe, little gnomes called tomtens stayed on at the same homestead 300 years or so. (Of course, so did the human inhabitants and their descendants.) The tomtens set up housekeeping in the animal barns, milking the cows at night just enough for their own families and for the barn cats. Sometimes they left small gifts for the people, and sometimes they got cranky. But they stayed. There's a tomten here who sometimes used to leave new packs of gum for my daughter when she was little. And sometimes in the night, the cat's ears prick up and he stares fixedly at a shadow in the corner.

I am glad to have found these words by a Crow elder in my homebodies reading: "You know, I think if people stay somewhere long enough -even white people- the spirits will begin to speak to them. It's the power of the spirits coming up from the land. The spirits and the old powers aren't lost, they just need people to be around long enough and the spirits will begin to influence them."

It's why I can't stay away very long.

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© 2004 by Pamela Thompson, Giving Ground - all rights reserved

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