Some time ago I finished reading Pam Houston’s Deep Creek, a collection of essays about her ranch among other things. A review will be forthcoming, but for now I’m thinking about how Houston “retethered” herself to the earth when she bought a 120-acre ranch in the early 1990s. She describes the ranch as opening her heart “like a tin can.” She is surrounded by wild things there as well as some domesticated. It is her home, the place she returns to after every cross-country or worldwide trip.
I feel like I’m still looking for a place to tether myself. Perhaps it would be a retethering in that I once I had a place that tugged at my heart. It was my neighbor’s house in my hometown, a place I spent the better part of my childhood. The house had been built around 1905 by my neighbor’s father. Ted was born in the house I was told; at least, it had always been his home until he moved in with a friend and signed the deed over to my mom who eventually signed it over to my brother who quickly “renovated” the old house until it was unrecognizable. Then there was a flood and both my childhood home (which my mother also had renovated so only the upstairs rooms could spark memories) and Ted’s home were destroyed, condemned, and then razed.
I had left home years before, lived in San Francisco and other cities in the Bay Area, then Tallahassee, Florida, where I still reside. I had untethered myself when I left but, deep down, I always wanted to believe I had something to go back to. I’m still struggling with that even after living nearly 30 years in one city, 29 years in one house. I don’t feel tethered to the city I live in.
I like our house. It has a very nice floor plan, and my husband has turned our backyard into an oasis. The walls don’t hold echoes of children, but they retain the plaintive cries of hungry or bored cats, or the human lamentations after one cat is stilled. It’s a comfortable home with furniture mistaken for scratching posts and litter scattered everything.
We live on a side street (30 mph) at the bottom of a hill that drivers like to race down. We have friendly neighbors. We used to be involved with the neighborhood association but stopped going to meetings a long time ago. We keep to ourselves which is our preference.
And maybe that’s why I don’t feel tethered to this place. Except for those moments when we’re out at St. Marks Refuge or exploring a nature trail, there seems to be no “there there.” I don’t know what I want. I can’t return to the past, even if Ted’s house was still standing, its original architecture intact. This city–Tallahassee–nor the state itself has opened my heart like a tin can.
So I’m searching … mostly through Zillow and off-hand comments from my husband about what might make sense for an aging couple on a (soon to be) fixed income.
But I’m listening too. In his preamble to the Winter 2019 issue of Orion magazine, H. Emerson Blake wrote about a birding trip he took to Florida a couple of years ago. He and his friend found what they think is the spot where the now-extinct Carolina parakeet was last seen in the wild. He wrote:
Standing there, I found myself listening hard for what the land had to say and for any suggestion the land itself grieved for the parakeets. […] Many people today, if they were told that they should try to listen to land, would find that idea odd, if not flat-out weird.
I like to think I listen. Even when I walk with my earbuds tuned to music or an audio book, another part of me is listening and looking. And so one day, while taking my usual constitutional on a nature trail near my work place, I saw this …
I stopped dead in my tracks, really expecting the hawk to fly off. After a few seconds, I decided to risk a few photos, as long as I took time in between to enjoy the sight with my own eyes.
Seriously, he’s not moving. He doesn’t seem to care that I’m getting closer to him.
Well, now he can’t say he didn’t see me. We look into each other’s eyes. I can tell he’s not impressed.
Now I’m worried that he’s sick or injured. Why else would he let me get this close? Except I can see his talons quite clearly now. They look very pointy.
I had to stop at this point. Seriously, another few steps and I would have been standing directly underneath him.
I worry when wild things get too used to humans and don’t run or fly off when they’re approached. I think this handsome guy knew what he was doing, though. His talons and beak could have done serious damage to me if I had threatened him and he probably knew that.
I backed away after a few more seconds of drinking in his beauty and watched him from the other side of the trail until he decided to decamp.
It’s moments like these when I feel tethered to something.
And I definitely feel tethered to the very domesticated creatures below.
What gives you a sense of place, or a sense of being tethered, like you belong where you are? Asking for a friend 🙂