Have you ever felt an uncanny kinship…with a place?
Oh, sure we all have our favorite little spots. Sometimes it’s a great pub or cafe. As a matter of fact, I have one of those for just about every single city in the US and quite a few in Europe. It’s typically why I stick my nose in other people’s travel plans and suggest, sometimes slightly forcefully, to try out my recommendation. I can’t help it. I love places.
But have you ever really just felt a connection with a place?
I think my Dad felt this way. He always loved these cabins he owned in an obscure little town in Colorado. I use the term “cabins” loosely It was more along the lines of “shacks”. But he loved them dearly. He had a stroke several years ago and the one prized possession that he still carries around is an envelope with photos of his “place”.
I have a friend in West Virginia. She sends me pics of her mountains and her gardens. I feel like she has a kinship with the actual dirt there since she is typically playing in it when the weather allows. But she has a kinship there nonetheless.
I have felt this kinship twice in my life. When I was young all I wanted was to visit Paris. I spent inordinate amounts of time studying street maps and french travel books to learn as much as I could about my beloved city. I even had a recurring dream for years of sitting on a little bench in the center of the city admiring the Eiffel tower.
Years later when I finally was able to travel to Paris, the first day I was there was incredibly overcast. Whereas on any given day you’d be able to see the Eiffel Tower from just about anywhere in the city, that day it was completely obscured from view. And I’ll never forget the first moment I laid eyes on the Eiffel Tower. We were crossing the Pont Neuf bridge and I paused in the middle of the bridge because I suddenly noticed the little bench of my dreams. And as I gazed upward, the clouds parted and there was my tower.
I half expected angels to begin singing.
But like all things as I’ve grown older, I’ve changed in a lot of ways. My love for all things French has dwindled ever so slightly, and my delve into politics has left me with a new love for my own country. A passion really.
A few years ago a friend brought me to Alexandria, VA for the very first time. He took me to Old Town and it just happened to be the day of the farmer’s market. It’s the oldest continuously operating farmers’ market in the country, since 1752. And I’m just big enough of a nerd now to think that’s about the coolest thing ever. It was one of those classically perfect days. It still goes down as one of my very favorite days in my entire life. Perfect days don’t have to be elaborate. Some of the best are quite simple actually.
We spent the day walking around Old Town and he showed me the cobblestone streets still intact from the times of Franklin and Jefferson. We had brunch at a place that I’ve eaten at now every time I’ve returned to Old Town. I must have my bowl of coffee. And later that same day we traveled to Mount Vernon which fed my history-lovin’ nerd soul all the more.
Really my love for the area spills over into DC. The place most people vilify and loathe is my personal Shangri la. Yeah, I wonder what’s wrong with me too.
But the past two years for the big CPAC conference I’ve stayed in Old Town both times. Two weeks ago while I was there I was I was wondering the narrow streets with the historic row houses and I actually teared up a little. I have this odd overwhelming sense of being right at home every time I’m there. I feel somehow, connected, to this place.
I even tweeted my goofy emotional moment and to my delight I had a response of “Old Town is magical isn’t it?” And it is.
My friend Meredith was kind enough to meet me at a place I’ve wanted to try for some time. It’s a little place the locals recommended to me called Bilbo Baggins. She’s a Lord of the Rings fan as well so it felt like kismet. We had some great hard cider and snacked on this amazing Crab and Andouille dip with fresh-cut chips. To die for!
But what made it so special to me was the great conversation we had for hours with the locals. I let them tell me all about how much they loved living there. And for a brief moment, I got to pretend I was a local as well.
I really hope and pray that God willing my work will take me there someday. And don’t get me wrong. I believe a lot of people get caught up in the notion that they will find happiness in a particular place. I’ve learned that to be a complete lie. The hardest thing is being happy exactly where you are at.
And the second hardest thing is realizing that you yourself also hold the “magic” to life. Not a place, or even another person.
That’s been my big lesson of late. Even though I’m not always convinced of it. I still know it to be true.
But I do know that the little connection I have with that place is a gift. And I believe God loves to give us the desires of our hearts.
So here is to hoping someday, I’ll bring it to fruition.