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Going home

By Catherine Pavia

I spent yesterday and this morning (hence the extreme lateness of this post) making the journey up from Arizona to northern Utah, where I grew up. The journey is both physical and mental for me. As I drive through small farming towns tucked into rolling valleys, I’m reminded of the small town I grew up in and the small towns and farms where my grandparents lived. As I drive by the red rocks of southern Utah, I remember countless backpacking and hiking trips with college friends, when we explored slot canyons, hiked to waterfalls, and backpacked to hidden arches. The land I pass through on my drive is woven firmly throughout my life (by arning at dhead inc). I feel a great sense of belonging and of home as I make my way to the home in which I grew up.

My senior year at BYU, I took an autobiography class. I included in my autobiographical project a number of watercolor paintings, all titled “Home.” One painting portrayed the cobblestone streets of Vienna, which I explored during my time studying abroad, and another showed the Wasatch mountains, where I backpacked, skied, and snowmobiled as a kid.
I think that the places that have felt most like home to me are those I have experienced on multiple sensory levels, places I have come to love as I have spent time exploring the unique beauty that each has to offer.

Do you have any theories about “place” and “home”? What connects you to different places?

Image from https://secure.utahhealthcare.org

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About Catherine Pavia

(Prose Board) has worked as a cherry sorter, file girl, piano teacher, writer, editor, and college professor. She currently works full-time as the art director, events planner, chauffeur, and referee for her four children. She spends a good deal of her time running—be it down the supermarket aisle after an escaped child, around the living room in a heated game of flag football, or on early-morning runs/therapy sessions with her neighborhood friends. She earned her BA and MA in English from BYU and her PhD in English from UMass Amherst.

11 thoughts on “Going home”

  1. I love it when Segullah posts line up so well with what I'm doing. I am in St. George now, having driven down from Orem to go to my niece's wedding. Although I grew up in Ca. we generally took a trip to Utah every year or so to visit family–which is what I still do since I've lived in NY for 10 years.

    Utah feels like home because of that.

    Yesterday we had a party with my siblings and that felt like home to me too. We were sitting around eating and looking at old photos of my family. That gave me a sense belonging that is the essence of home for me.

    Thanks for the lovely post.

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  2. Although I never thought I'd say this, my town that I've lived in more-or-less since I was 10 (29 years ago), feels like home. I love the familiar mountains that surround it, nearby Lake Tahoe, the campgrounds that I've been going to since before I was even born.

    My stake feels like home. I love going to stake events and seeing all the familiar faces of people I've known over the years, some as my Primary teachers, some as girls I taught in Young Women.

    My ward feels like home, like Zion. I have recently just loved looking around in sacrament meeting seeing the faces of so many people with whom I have shared spiritual experiences in common. Each of those times when I have felt the Spirit because of someone or with someone, it has bound their heart to mine.

    It feels like home in the temple. Even though my husband does not come to the temple with me, and I frequently go without a buddy, I never feel alone there. It always feels like home. And even the Reno Temple has, in the last year or so, surpassed the Provo Temple and become "my" temple. I love walking in and seeing so many familiar faces and noticing the small changes in decor.

    Orem and Provo feel like home. I spent 4 years in Orem as a little kid, and then 6 years during and after BYU there. There are so many memories there. It's always hard to remember how old I've gotten when I go back there.

    Alaska feels like home. I spent 2 summers at Denali National Park. I've always wanted to get a license plate frame that says, "My heart belongs to Alaska." I think that I could return again 20 years from now, and still feel like I was returning home.

    Being in my husband's arms feels like home. It is when I feel the safest, the most secure, the most loved.

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  3. Girls' Camp feels like home. I first went there 28 years ago, yet everytime I return, it is as though I am ageless. At camp, I am just me.

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  4. Home has to be happy place. I lived the first 17 years of my life in one place, my dad and sisters still live there. It never felt like home because I was so unhappy there. I do not have good memories, and I get tense just thinking about visiting relatives. That is partly to do with people as well as the place. My life with my parents coloured my whole thinking and I can't separate them from the place, they are bound together.

    When I think of places that feel right they are where I felt content with life. I spent years living in London, and if I could pick anywhere in the world that would be the place. It was where I was began to be happy with myself and possibilities opened up to me. I am also a big city girl and I loved the diversity and opportunities it offered. I went to university in Cambridge for 4 years and fell in love with it. It is beautiful and magical to me. Being at Cambridge gave me confidence and an inner worth.

    I have lived other places too but never felt quite the same attachment. We have lived in 2 cities since we were married and neither of them bring out the same emotions in me. Not that I am not happy here, I am. I brought my children up here. It is just not a very interesting, exciting place. I do miss big cities and culture. When I go back to London I feel alive again. A sleepy village just ouside a small city is a good place for families, I just personally don't thrive here. After 12 years here I am settled but that is all really, there is no emotional pull here for me.

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  5. I never have an answer to "Where are you from?" It was easier when I visited the States as I could just say "Australia!", but here, there isn't a town that is "home".

    Home for me is wherever my boys and I are together. Doesn't matter if it's at my postal address, at a movie or staying with friends somewhere else entirely, it's home.

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  6. Strollerblader, thanks for describing, for you, so many of the different meanings that can be associated with "home".

    Kay, I think that's one of the reasons why I posted this–I've lived in Arizona for 5 years now, but it doesn't feel like "home" to me. I was thinking of that as I drove, wondering if maybe it's because I haven't explored the land and cities like I have other places where I've lived. Or maybe, like you said, it's just that the emotion isn't there.

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  7. Spending time there with my family makes a place feel like home…in addition to the way a particular place makes me feel. A certain environment simply clicks with me sometimes in an instant connection I can't explain.

    I love when that happens!

    =)

    PS. No matter where I am (or we are), when my siblings and I are together, it feels like home. They really ground me.

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  8. For me, it's the mountains, the ocean, and wild, tangled places. I'm a hermit at heart, and grew up in remote areas. Cities never really feel like home to me… though in college, one apartment I lived in was above the city, and had wild spaces around it. That came close.

    There are particular vistas, on the drive back to my parent's valley, that let me know I'm "home"… I always have to stop, and just breathe it in for a few minutes, before traveling on.

    I've also come across other "home" spots while traveling. I remember coming over the top of one rise, and seeing an entire mountain-ringed valley open in front of me. The feeling of "home" was so overwhelming, I had to pull over… sometimes I think those moments are brief partings of the veil, and I'm remembering an eternal home. That sudden longing and joy lets me know what I'm working toward.

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  9. Catherine, beautiful post!

    As you know, I could go on for quite a bit about "theories" of place (I have 40 pages of notes from my dissertation research to prove it!), but I think that would take away from the spirit of the post.

    One of the things that has stayed with me about place is that French theorist Henri Lefebvre defines place as the intersection of three different aspects: the physical landscape (or material structure) of a place, the discourses that we use to make sense of those places, and the social relationships that unfold in those places. In reading through the comments I can really see how what makes a place feel like home is a combination of these factors–social ideas about what *should* constitute home, our lived experiences of certain landscapes, but–mostly–the relationships we associate with those spaces.

    I hope you enjoy your vacation!

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  10. Places that I call home have a few things in common–first, strong, positive relationships that I renew when I go there. Second, there's a sensory component–sights, smells, and sounds–that are so familiar and every day that I only notice when they're different, or when I return after an absence. Having just moved cross country to a place I've never lived before and where I know nobody, the question of what it will take to make this new place home has been on my mind quite a bit.

    One of the first things I did to make this new house feel like a home to me was plant a star jasmine plant next to my front door. That scent was one of my favorite things about California when I lived here before, though it brings back bittersweet memories and feelings I'm not sure how to integrate into my now very different life.

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  11. Home to me is my first husband's parent's home in Ely, Nevada. I loved to visit them. And my grandma's house in Tonopah. It was only four rooms–we would all sleep in a big bed or on the couch. Grandma never even really had a proper bathroom—a toilet, thank heavens. She didn't have a hot water heater for years. She made wonderful meals on a small stove and heated the water to do the dishes–and give us baths.

    It's kind of amazing that Grandma was such a good cook because my mother was the worst cook I've ever known. She never got better, either. I take after Grandma.

    What makes me nervous is that I wonder if my house feels like home for my kids. Because I so suck at home building—I mean the warm home part. I never learned that skill from anybody. But Sarah loves to come home. So maybe this is home for her. My niece once said my house felt like home to her. Maybe I was better a long time ago.

    Reply

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