“We are our Geography”

Do we bond with the place where we spend our formative years? I’ve always believed that our heart holds a soft spot for the climate we experience as babies and small children. We remember the daily or seasonal gray skies, or the brilliant sun, or the downpours, or the snow, as the background of our life. Later, when we move on from that place, we take those memories with us, and they become our ‘normal’.

My daughter was born in Japan, and lived there until she was two. Twenty-five or so years later, she chose to re-locate to a climate like the one where she started life. The one she bonded with. She’s crazy about it. As she waxes poetic about the beautiful rain, the mysterious fog, I can’t help but think about the months and months when we never saw the sun, in Japan. About the incessant rain. The umbrellas we wore out. Coincidence?

I grew up in New York, and moved to California when I was 26. I’ve now lived in California longer than I did in NY, but it will never, ever seem normal for summer to be brown and winter to be green. That is just so wrong! Trees and bushes sleep during the winter; the whole landscape sleeps. Even in the city that never sleeps! But not, apparently, in California.

And people all over the world know that poppies are red! After church on each Veteran’s Day, all the fathers (who had been in WWII, when I was a kid) received a red poppy for their lapel. (Yes, everyone had lapels back then.) The famous Russian ballet is called “The Red Poppy.” Of course. It wasn’t until I moved to California that I learned they come in other colors.

So some people, like my daughter and me, never shake the ‘normal’ from our childhood. We crave it. We look for it everywhere, and don’t feel right without it.

But some don’t. Some, like my brother, never bond with their original climate at all. Raised in NYC, my brother couldn’t wait to move to a place where he could wear T-shirts all year long! He found it. And he’s happy there.

I believe it was the poet laureate of California from a few years ago, Dennis Schmitz, who said it succinctly: “We are our geography.”

Which type are you? Did you bond with your climate, and go on to settle in a similar place? Or are you still looking for that perfect place that’s unlike where you grew up?