Returning home matters to ones wellbeing. The journey, any journey I imagine, takes one to landscapes different and other than home. These other landscapes are full of plants and animals and people different from home. Often folk talk about how much more alike we are than we are different. Good talk in a world where humanity has done so well to separate us from our sisters and brothers because of language, sculpt of body or color of skin. Yet, when one journeys home and the body responds to wind blowing through the yellowing willows, one knows home is different than the land beyond the ridge.
After a week in Indianapolis, speaking with the Disciples Home Missions Board, I’d finally found myself looking out the window on the evening flight from Seattle to Yakima. The flight crosses the Cascade Range, which can make for an interesting flight as the plane plows through rain and snow clouds. With all the technology and ever-changing plane design, clouds continue to have the upper hand and with bumping and shifting, inform the plane’s flight.
If one is lucky during an evening crossing, in the autumn of the Cascades, the top of the cloud layer is just a bit below the cruising altitude of the plane and the sun is ending its daily journey of the western landscape. Being a moment above the clouds is an appreciative time of reflection after the jostling relationship of plane and cloud from ground to open sky. The clouds journeying to the east are unlike any others I’ve encountered between Indianapolis and Seattle. These have been formed and molded by western wind, Cascade Mountains, and hills, valleys, and watercourses below. Little surprise these clouds do not have the feel and look of other clouds across the country for the place of their being is unlike any other place.
Knowing place is different matters to ones sense of home and personal wellbeing. Not knowing place is different is damaging. Those comments that speak to all downtown areas looking the same—McDonalds, Starbucks, Borders—tell a truth about a society wanting and expecting normalcy by creating sameness. Yet even in the midst of the massive commercialization of downtowns, believing them the same is hurtful. Wellbeing is damaged when people of downtown Indianapolis, Houston, and Seattle are told there is no difference. Even more damage occurs should they believe themselves and their community the same as another. Stepping aside though, and recognizing that even with the onslaught of business creating the same burger or latte in every city and town; the wind continues to sound different and the sun continues to throw shadows different on every city corner. Commercialization of sameness damages every town and city, but like the uniqueness of clouds over every landscape, when we recognize that no place is any more the same than a cloud over the Cascades is the same as a cloud over the Rockies, then the uniqueness of place is never lost.
Returning home matters, but only if we know home for its unique voice.
© David B. Bell 2010