Sense of Place

Housecoat Diaries

So, where do you think you belong? Are you living your life on the D-List, or are you one of the beautiful people? Are you happy with where you’re at, or do you think you would be better off someplace else? What’s the difference between one place and another anyway?

If there is any definitive route to happiness it is surely sense of place. But where that place is or could be or ought to be, well, that’s a subtle mystery. How we choose our spot in the world, in relation to others, and, most importantly, in relation to our dreams, is the single biggest challenge we will ever face in our lives. And, believe me, there’s no simple formula: wherever you go, there you are.

Why do so many remarkable people come hurtling like blazing meteors from small town roots, and so many others from those same small towns simmer away in their tiny corner of the world without ever once venturing farther than sixty miles down the road? How come some of us just have to go that extra mile, and others won’t give an inch? I guess it’s all positioning. We’re all driven by the need for a sense of place.

When you find yourself in the middle of a crowd, which way do you gravitate? What type of friend makes you feel most comfortable? Do you like the twitchy, greasy, good-guy type, or do you prefer a different kind of shininess in an associate? Do you float up alongside the oddest duck on the pond, or do you prefer to get in on the popularity contest?

I have always tended to be friends with, shall we say, less glamorous types. My mates have included ragamuffin Maritime drifters who ended up on the streets of East Vancouver, and world-weary Winklerites turned-Winnipeggers. My buddies have been misfit musicians, lovable losers, and flunk-out farmboys. My gals have been the daughters of drunks and drunks themselves, and my prophets say “I love you brother, you take care,” as they saunter hazily into oncoming Main Street traffic.

And yet, I remember a little snot-nosed northern Manitoba kid with a homemade haircut and way-too-short pants getting guff from me and my friends. No breaks, no buddies, no bets being taken on that horse. And I wonder about little Sidney Billings, and what kept me from being his friend. And I wonder how he found his place in life. Did he hurtle off to greatness, or did he marry the one girl he ever slept with and end up working in the mine just like his dad? Maybe he didn’t have to go anywhere or be part of any group to be okay with life. Maybe he just needed that girl: that one friend that gave him a sense of place.

Life is so full of twists and turns that no matter whether we stay put or pull out of whatever place we’re in, the only way to know where we’re going and where we’ve really been is by the company we keep. More so than any town or country or state of mind, people are the truest place.