Searching and Listening #MondayBlogs #Nature #Florida

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.

Sleeping in on New Year’s Day.

What gives you a sense of place, or a sense of being tethered, like you belong where you are? Asking for a friend 🙂

34 thoughts on “Searching and Listening #MondayBlogs #Nature #Florida

  1. Marie, wow! The hawk is astonishing and it certainly seemed tethered to his perch. You were brave to approach him so closely and I reckon it knew there was nothing to fear. I can be difficult to find just the ‘right place’ … and it is a matter of being open to possibilities and the answers will come to you! Sometimes you can have many homes and even though I have a lovely home where I live most of the time, my mother’s summer houses in Sweden are also home, and my love for other certain areas in Europe remain strong. Tethered yet not so to many places! Wishing you a magical year of discovery! Always remembering you take yourself with you wherever you go! 😀

    • Thank you, Annika! I believe you are right, that the hawk knew he didn’t need to fear me. And I love your last sentence. Someone else made a similar comment, to the effect that home is within us. Thank for you for reading and commenting 🙂

  2. Restless soul…IDK, those Hallmark/Lifetime movies of smiley people in smalls towns saying hello to everyone and being “home”….I’m not sure I ever want to feel that seen. I guess I have always felt at home in any home, and some dorm rooms. 4 walls, good window coverings with easy access to stuff and nature. I’m home in me, when I can be me….introvert tether?

    • I like this: “I’m home in me.” Similar to what my friend John says about home being a state of mind. My town was so small you couldn’t go anywhere without someone knowing you and your family and if you were a kid, reporting back to your family about whatever they saw you doing. That’s a big reason why I left. Us introverts like our privacy and there was none where I came from. California was the opposite with almost total anonymity but way too expensive and way too many people. I’m really glad I wrote this post because of all the great comments, especially the idea of being “home in me.” Thank you for that 🙂

  3. The hawk photos are amazing. I would also worry about getting too close. He should take off but maybe he just had a nice fat mouse and he wanted to digest in his own time. Tethered to me is a matter of where you feel at peace. I have moved so many times that I have stopped counting. My tethered is not a matter of house or funature but a state of mind. Good post, Marie.

    • Oh, I like that, John: “not a matter of house or furniture but a state of mind.” That pretty much allows you to live anywhere … which I guess you have 😉 But I really do like that idea. I’ll have to ponder it some more. There are times when I feel it’s just up to me, my “state of mind,” whether I feel at home somewhere. It definitely gives me more options 😉 Thanks for your comments about the photos. I’m thinking you’re right, he probably had just had a meal and was just chilling out. In any case, I’m thankful he let me get so close 🙂

  4. I can relate to this so much to your wonderful, authentic words. You may have noticed I write A LOT about belonging and home. I have just recently started to root down here in Cary NC and feel that I belong HERE. This is my home. I just wrote an IG post on this. Are you on IG? I think you and the hawk may have had some magic there that day. Isn’t it amazing when we are allowed a closer look? Great post and photos, Marie.

    • Thank you, Cheryl! Yes, I’m on IG. I will look for you and that particular post. How wonderful that you feel you belong in Cary! How much of that is your community, the people around you? As I think more about being tethered and belonging, I realize that I can appreciate a lot of different landscapes and as long as I have reasonable access to Nature, I can be happy. So maybe it’s community. My husband and I are practically hermits. Although we have friends, we don’t see them very much. I have to think about this some more. We’re introverts so we’re not looking to get involved with group activities, but we might be missing out on some things.

  5. I read this early this morning, but couldn’t comment at the time. Since then I picked up a manuscript I’ve been reading for someone and found a similar idea in it–about how you can’t go back to your home city when the city you knew has been erased by “new city,” buildings torn down, new ones built, etc. But your tethering is even more to the point, I think. My cats definitely tether me, and I have been trying to feel more tethered to Arizona. Truly, I haven’t felt tethered since I left Michigan–and i wanted to leave really bad at the time. And I don’t want to go back. Is there an answer?

    • Hey, Luanne, I don’t know if there’s an answer. I was just writing to Ellen that I have a sense of belonging to the land where I grew up but, if I moved back, I don’t know if I’d have the community that I need. It makes me realize that a sense of place isn’t just geography but also community. After almost thirty years, Greg and I can count the number of close friends we have on one hand and we don’t even see them very often because they are deeply engaged with their adult children and their grandchildren as well as also working full-time. We have lots of acquaintances and, of course, I have work colleagues. But I know once I leave my job, I’m not likely to see any of them again except, at the most, an occasional lunch date. I think part of what we’re missing is a sense of community here, and I’m thinking along those lines because last night we went to a poetry reading at a local indie bookstore. The poet was a woman I knew from my graduate days in English (1990-1992); her husband as well. We got there early so I wound talking with both Mary Jane (Ryals) and her husband. The years didn’t completely melt away but I did feel a kind of kinship given our shared experiences. And then the room was packed with their friends, other writers and poets, and I realized that I’ve been totally ignorant of the literary community in Tallahassee. I don’t know if I want to get involved (or even how I would) but it made me feel good to know it’s here.

      • You are right that community is sort of hand-in-hand with the place. I am in the same situation where I’ve lived since I left Michigan–Cali, then AZ. I’ve never really developed that community that is so important. And right now, though, I’d love it, I just can’t create it because I don’t want to go out at night very often–and you can’t really become part of anything without spending evenings out with others. The writing community here, for instance, is exclusively evenings, especially weekend evenings. Not for me. Now if it was during the day, I would love it. Sorry for the tangent. I’m happy you went to that reading and got to chat with someone from the “old days.” I hope you figure out a way that being part of that community works for you!

        • I’m the same as you, Luanne. While I’m happy to renew some old friendships, I don’t like to go out in the evening. I’ll like it less once I no longer have my day job. While I’m still working, these kind of outings are a “date night” for me and Greg and a great excuse to leave work early 😉 But there’s still a part of me that just wants to wind down and turn off in the evening.

          • Yes, I want to be with my cats, not have to rush somewhere, and honestly between dinner for the cats and dinner for us, there isn’t time for anything else. Not to mention driving in the dark.

  6. I love the concept about feeling tethered (or not) and this wonderful post about it. We settled (ha–we are on a constant circuit) on the Gulf Coast after we drove down Beach Boulevard and I felt as if I had returned to the coast of my childhood. Intellectually, I knew the wind-swept beach appeared this way because of the destruction of Katrina, but I couldn’t shake the “back in time” feeling. We have fallen in love with the community here, but it is the sense of the past being present the land gives that makes me feel tethered.

    • Oh, I love that idea of the past being present, feeling as if you’re returning home. I do have those feelings about the land around my childhood home. Every time I go home, I drive over to the cafeteria in Auriesville where I worked when I was a teenager. It’s on a hill and overlooks the Mohawk River, train tracks and farmland. I can feel myself returning to those summers when I would take a smoke break and sit outside, no matter how humid and hot, and gaze out at the view. It’s the kind of thing that makes me feel I could move back again, that sense of belonging to the land. I don’t know if I would have the community I’d need though. There’s family, but I would need friends too, if you know what I mean 😉

      • Oh, I do that too. I drive through my old neighborhood, remembering when I lived there as a child and returned as an adult, gazing at the houses, reminding myself of who lived there, the stories that attached to them. But I agree that the connection to the land, the pull of the place, needs the supportive community to make it work. At least it does for me. Great post and conversation

  7. I love this post. You nail that feeling that I think all humans have, that they belong somewhere. Some specific place. We lived in one place for almost sixteen years but never felt like it was the keeper we were looking for. Then we landed where we are now, and we know it’s the one. I guess it’s a matter of “you know it when you feel it.”

    But from our experience I can tell you that serendipity is a big factor, and you sometimes wind up, happily, somewhere you’d least expect.

    • I’m glad I’m not the only one with these feelings 😉 I have relatives who can’t imagine living anywhere other than where they grew up, but I remember myself as always wanting to get away. In a way, Greg and I feel we “belong” in California, but the crush of humanity is more than we can bear. That was a big part of why we moved: too many people all the time, and the fact that we couldn’t afford more than a one-bedroom apartment. Sometimes I think we’ll be fine if we wind up staying here as long as we have the means to travel when we want. Last night we went to a poetry reading at a local independent bookstore. The poet was a former classmate of mine from 1990-1992. I had not seen her since then even though we both live here. It was a good experience. Mary Jane is an easy person to be around, as is her husband, another former classmate. It was a packed room of poets and writers and I simply had no idea that there was any literary culture here. Being an introvert, I’ve avoided the local writer’s association, but it was nice being in the company of creative people. Guess I just need to get out more 😉

  8. I can relate to your feelings, Marie. I love our home, particularly the view, but after 16 years in North Carolina, it doesn’t feel like home to me. I love my job, but hate having to commute through a dangerous part of town to get there and I don’t like working downtown. My parents are here as is Derek’s family, so for now, we’re tethered. One day, I’d like to move back to Virginia, but in the southern part of the state. Fantastic photos!

    • Ugh, I hate commuting. I don’t go through dangerous parts of town but traffic is fairly insane no matter where I go. You know, we moved to FL in part because we have family in the state, but about 250 miles away. The rest of my family is in NY. That makes moving tricky for now, at least if we wanted to move back out west. I’m glad you enjoyed the photos!

  9. Interesting. Never thought of it this way, but I feel the same way about the house we live in now. We raised our kids here, plenty of good memories here, but the house does nothing for me. It’s not where I want to be, in the neighborhood I want to be, in the community I want to be. It’s just a place I live, but it’s not where I live.

    • Well, if you want to move, then it’s good you don’t feel attached to your house. I don’t love my house, but I’m very comfortable with it. If I had the power, I would take it with me if we move 😉

  10. Lovely–and thoughtful–and that hawk–just wow! It is moments like that that are so magical and somehow make things seem better. I don’t have any answers for you, of course. It sounds like you are comfortable, if not rooted to where you are now, and I suspect you will find what you’re looking for when the time comes.

    • Oh, yes, that hawk made my day … maybe a lot more since I can revisit the photos 🙂 You make a good point that I seem comfortable. I know nothing will happen in terms of moving while Maxine and Junior are still around. They’re too old and would not adjust to change very well. Wendy—she’ll just have to go along with whatever we decide 🙂

      • I’m still amazed that you could get so close. I’m wondering if I could have gotten close to the vultures I saw today instead of staying in my car. 🙂 Yes, good point about your cats. I was surprised that my older daughter’s old cat adjusted so well to their move, but daughter and her wife lived in an apartment in Boston, and now he has the space of a house in western Mass.

        • Ha ha … I do think cats will adjust if they have more space to explore and make their own. Of our three, we expect Wendy, who also happens to be the youngest, would adjust to a move fairly well. She’s also the only one of the three who tolerates our absences the best (although I do like to think that she misses sleeping with me when I’m gone).

  11. A lovely post, Marie. How sad about Ted’s house and your childhood home. What are the things that make you feel more tethered to a place? The wildlife? The neighborhood? I live in the same state in which I was born. My family is spread out. My brother lives 45 minutes away. My parents live a thousand miles away. I moved to the area I live in because of a job. But I still had a commute to get to the job. I like living near enough to places (like church, friends, work) but still far enough away that I have to drive a bit to get to them. I’m odd that way.

    • Thanks, Linda. I’m wondering if I want to be tethered. If it weren’t for our cats, we’d travel more. Not so much tourist trips but places we feel drawn to. That you have to drive to see family is not odd. At times when we’ve talked about moving north, we always make the point that we wouldn’t want to live so close that my family could just drop in, which they would 😉

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