The air feels like a bolster, that’s the only way I can think to describe it– everywhere against me, clinging like dew on a leaf, and comforting, coating my winter legs with misty gloss, my hair with frizz. And the air feels alive, full of elements I can’t see and have no name for, but prove their truth in palpable balm.

With fingers open, palms outstretched, I sit in the backyard of my girlhood home, in a little patch of sunshine that seems to have my name emblazoned on its rays. I watch my baby putter around the azeala and pause to point at a hummingbird. And then another. And then a blue jay. And then a condor. My eyes track the Eden up and down: grass, lofty redwood, deck, japanese maple, bluestar creeper, fig. The breeze picks up, the chimes bellow single tones of quivering alto. I am home. I am home. I am home.

The rolling foothills have swapped their gold for green, and vast meadows of their space– like unruly shag capeting– are covered in cattails and buttery mustard flowers that my children run through and roll in. The oak trees that punctuate en copse, are massive, serpentine forms that reach against a sky colored with the gentleness of a waning sun, and backlit, the branches are black, each cluster of leaves a luminous overlay of lace. When I look beyond them, up the hills, I see dirt roads and single track paths– things I can’t see the end of, things that seem to lead nowhere I know yet, but somewhere.

Somewhere begging discovery.


Somewhere between that moment and the evening, I form a theory in my mind for a truth my heart has always known. My story has no possibility of unfolding without first finding a proper setting, and like any simple girl mired-in and drawn-to the temperate valleys of the west, my story belongs in California.

After dinner and before bed, we walk a footpath along a hill, dotted with historical plaques. I stop to read them while my dad follows the children through the tall grasses– cattails and mustard flowers– and am taken by the images of the first Californios who settled the homestead that becomes today a barn, a field, a hidden spring flanked in boardwalks, an impression against a backdrop.

“It’s strange,” I say to my dad, “To think of how old this place is, how its history goes so far back.”

He pauses, glancing at a hyper child, and says without even looking at me, “And how you’re part of its history too.”

My senses bloom in the place of my origin. I bloom. I am overtaken by a keen awareness to its details and what meaning I give those details: my sensory perception like the ragged tips of exposed nerve endings– all minutiae are large, loud, neon textures that become so obvious and fraught with meaning, that they cease to be details and coalesce into a single character. A single place. Where the story will happen.

Even if that story is just a walk before bedtime. Or yellow cake enjoyed on the patio.

Would the walk have been the same without the aged live oaks? Would the felted worn brick against my bare foot have more importance than the cake? Probably not. But it wouldn’t be or taste or seem the same without it.

Where is your place?
Where do you feel more alive, or like a better version of yourself?
Do you have a place that inspires you? A place you go back to? A place you escape to?



  1. MB

    April 4, 2012

    Lovely description. This caught my attention, partly because I grew up in northern California and all the imagery in it connected vividly with memories and partly because it made me aware of a change in myself.

    In the past half century I’ve lived in six different places in the US. In each, (except my current one; I haven’t lived here quite long enough yet)when I return there, my soul sings, “I am here, I am here!” and my senses drink deeply as if to slake a profound thirst. But, when I return to those places, including my childhood location and my parents’ home, it does not sing “I am home!” like it did when I was younger.

    Over the decades that has changed and now their is no one geographic location where my soul sings “I am home”. Instead, the closest I get to that feeling is a serious sense of place and commitment to and appreciation for the space where I now live, have planted some living thing that’s growing, done some good and hosted a friend. And that’s good.

    I had not been conscious of that change. Thanks for your lovely writing that made me aware of it.

  2. Ana of the Nine Kids

    April 4, 2012

    What city? I lived in Concord, CA during high school and I remember the rolling hills and oak trees too. Beautiful writing!

  3. annegb

    April 4, 2012

    Yes, beautiful. I think my kids feel that way about our house. Sometimes I do, too.

  4. KDA

    April 4, 2012

    Thanks for transporting me away from the clutter of my kitchen to the lush landscapes of northern ca. As a preschooler, I lived in monterrey and pacifica, and I have fuzzy memories of playing among bushes and flowering trees.

    The most salient place memory for me is probably from my time in DC, particularly the route I ran when I lived and worked in Georgetown. I would run on the C&O canal tow path. I would pretend to be “Capricornica” the mighty goat as I ran through a wooded incline from the back of my house in order to get on the path.

    And then when I took long runs that involved bridges and city scapes, I would note how DC displaced a perfect ratio of land to water to man-made structures: I’d think this while crossing key bridge, going past the national cemetery and across the roosevelt bridge and or a lap around the tidal basin at the food of the Jefferson monument. The handful of runs I made during the blooming of the cherry blossoms still stay vivid in my mind, even though I experienced them way back in the springs of 85, 86, 87, and 88.

    I was so inspired by your sense of place, Brooke, that I set up a pinterest BB called “garden book nook” this morinng as a first step towards creating a little sense-filled place in my own backyard. : )

  5. KDA

    April 4, 2012

    Ugh “displayed” not “displaced.” I guess the word “place” was trying to wiggle into as many spots as possible while I wrote my comment!

  6. Maj-Lén

    April 4, 2012

    Thank you. Those feelings recall a lot of peace given me.

    After a rainy night in Finland the smells permeated every nook and cranny of my being. A walk down the lane next to the woods was so rich I can transport myself there almost at will whenever it rains in a forest. It is the place of people dear to me, mostly gone now, to some day greet me after I leave mortality.

    I was loved there and still am considered “the dear child” even though I am a grandmother two dozen times over. There, I bend to the grayer hairs of my mentor. There I am at home, even though I have always been a visitor welcomed with open arms.

    The home of the heart is where love is given. I hope to give home to many hearts that yearn for a harbor.

    Thank you for the beautiful descriptions that give wing to memories.

  7. Michelle

    April 4, 2012

    The place I wish I could go back to, but haven’t for years: Capistrano Beach, where we would vacation every year. I miss the ocean.

  8. Jennie

    April 4, 2012

    I haven’t been back to my home, Detroit, in almost twenty years. I didn’t like it growing up and I still don’t think of it very fondly. But part of me longs to show it to my children. It was the only place I’d lived growing up.

    Where I live now, Austin, is the place that feels most like “me” of anywhere I’ve lived.

  9. Sandra

    April 4, 2012

    I feel like I have left a piece of my heart each place I have lived. I feel that way about San Francisco, Baltimore, St. Louis, and parts of Texas and even where I would visit my grandparents in the northern mountains of California. I can’t honestly say I have one place…but my husband does. He is also from the Bay Area of California and he is mad for it.

  10. Kellie aka Selwyn

    April 5, 2012

    I dread being asked where I’m “from”. I don’t have a town or place I can conveniently call “home”.

    But a chunk of my heart is covered in the thick grey clouds of the Snowy Mountains, where I spent more years in the same 300+km radius than anywhere else.

  11. Sage

    April 5, 2012

    I’m from Northern California too! (Ana my husband grew up in Pleasant Hill and my Rice cousins lived in Walnut Creek).

    I lived just a ways from a beautiful monastery and wilderness preserve in Los Altos. I spent many hours running there. I spent hours staring at the oak trees gracefully supporting the rolling hills. Loved the way that bit of the earth calmed my teenage heart. I haven’t been back since my oldest was about three (he’s 18 now).

    I live among the trees and lakes of New York now. It is beautiful, and I love it, but I still long for the more sophisticated beauty of my monastery hill in the warmer clime of California.

    The plan is to move to LA. When we sell the house. That seems a long way off…we’ve been trying so long.

  12. annegb

    April 5, 2012

    I say “I’m from Elko” usually because it was where I was happiest. But if I’m talking to someone new who’s from Long Beach, I will say “I’m from Long Beach!” I can also said I’m from a nice little town in Kansas. Or I can say “I’m a Nevada dirt town girl.”

    My kids, though, they will never hesitate when they say “Cedar City” because I vowed never to move when I grew up. They might not be proud of it; they didn’t appreciate that they were never the new kid and they all said they couldn’t wait to get away. They said they thought it would be fun to be the new kid. Yeah, I ignore that bit of insanity.

  13. Becky

    April 5, 2012

    I’m a small town Western Washington gal. I was born in Utah and I live in Utah now. But I grew up in Washington. I will always claim my NW roots. I find when I have feelings of homesickness I want to put my toes in the cold waters of the Puget Sound. I ache for ocean and for green sometimes. One very hot summer my husband came home and found me crying. I was so tired of the heat, the brown, and the lack of wet. I remember begging him to take me to the ocean. It was a tender mercy moment because that evening we had a rain storm that lasted for several hours. We danced, walked, and just ran in the rain. I couldn’t have ocean but I could have wet and a wonderful sweetheart to celebrate it with.

    Despite my longing for my old home, Heavenly Father wants my little family here. I’m learning to love a land that I have so much history in. My ancestors came from green places too and they followed a prophet to settle this wild, dry land. In the Archeology dig that is my backyard (you wouldn’t believe what we have found in our slow efforts to landscape)I find that wonder about them and if this rock was around when they were here. I am learning to love the land of my married life so far. I can’t seem to give my whole heart though, one small part will always foster a bit of squishy, green moss.

  14. angie f

    April 5, 2012

    I grew up in the western suburbs of Washington DC. I haven’t lived there in 25 years, but that level of green and the attendant moisture is imminently soothing to me. I live in the Vegas desert now and it’s mostly a good thing, but every spring, I long for blossoms, for green, for flowers so thick and so present that on a windy day you think it snowed petals.

    I am learning to love ocotillo, lantana and agapanthus, but they don’t snow petals and they really can’t hold a candle to rhododendron, azaleas and magnolias. And while there is history here, it is more common to demolish buildings when they’re old, to find a new house instead of renovating an old one and there’s something infinitely majestic to me about driving down Constitution Ave in the spring, with monuments and history and flowers beckoning me on every side.

  15. rae keck

    April 5, 2012

    The clouds below the plane opened as we descend. Out the window I could see the New York skyline and the Statue of Liberty. Although there is still a cross country flight before I can rest, that first sight of the US shores welcomes our wandering family home. Here no longer are we the foreigners, the ones out of step, the visitors. Just like the scene in a B movie my flight mates give a cheer when the PA system announces welcome to The United States of America and the pilot dips a wing to Lady Liberty. I feel that rush that brings tears and the warm relief that home is still where I left it. My adventure is over and I return to my country, my place, my home

  16. Sharon S

    April 7, 2012

    It was just the other day when I was in the van listening to the 80’s music on the radio. My place was Rexburg, Idaho. Yes, Ricks College for me was a place that meant independence, self reliance, courage and really everything required to be on my own. Coming from a high school where I was one of less than a dozen LDS kids meant for me I was standing alone when it came to standards of moral conduct. Being at a college where those standards and values where normal and expected made this place enchanted to me. I enjoyed the whole experience. And it wasn’t until I was almost finished with my education there that I met my eternal companion.
    My oldest son is currently serving a mission in Northern California. My family and I would visit relatives who lived in Redbluff and they even had an in the ground pool, something we could brag to our Washington state friends about. My son is serving by the mountains where it is more green and lush and rainy so I’m told.
    Thank you for the fabulous post and for letting me share too.

  17. Barb

    April 7, 2012

    Place! I love your vivid way of capturing not just the images but the abstract feelings that are not so easy for most to try to put in words. A special place to me is Greenfield, IA. My grandparents and great-grandparents farmed in Grove Township, which boarders the town. Then, my grandparents moved to the town. So much history there and happy times.

Comments are closed.