Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Home is Where the Heart Is

For those of you who visit my Facebook page from time to time, you will notice that I have a photograph as my header now. It's the view from my balcony in California and I love it. I look out over hills and trees,with Mount Tamalpais peeking over the far ridge. In fact I love it so much that I pay the neighbor on the street below me to have her trees trimmed every year so that don't get in the way of my view.

I've decided there are certain things I need in the place where I live. I don't do well in cities with noise. I need to be close to nature. I need sunshine. I need beauty. I need hills. It's part of my Welsh heritage, I suppose, that there has to be a nearby mountain. I can remember the first time I saw a mountain. My Aunt Gwladys took me to relatives in Wales. We arrived at night. In the morning I opened the curtains and there was a mountain outside my window. I was only about seven at the time but I remember feeling "This is it. This is what things should look like."

We spent three years in Texas, flat as a pancake. Every day I'd drive down the freeway trying to invent hills on the horizon in my head.
So I think I've made the right choice about where to live. It's not perfect, of course. The traffic has become horrible. There are gangs and shootings in the  Bay Area. And I do get the occasional fantasy about buying a cottage in England and walking to the village with my basket over my arm to buy the eggs. But then I remember that it rains in UK and I escape to Arizona to have sunshine year round. And I read the English newspapers and see that life is no longer idyllic there.

So I think I'm pretty fortunate to have lived in a place that feels right for most of my life. I lived in Sydney once with its lovely harbor--oh, and I really appreciate water nearby which is one of the reasons I couldn't live in Arizona all year. But I love my stark mountains and cactus in the winter. And in both cases having a big city within reach for concerts, art galleries etc.

So how about you--why did you choose where you live? Would you live somewhere else if you could?

LUCY BURDETTE:  For me it's salt water. My mother was an utter nut about the ocean and it rubbed off! I can remember deciding to move to Boulder when I was just out of college. I was so excited to get away from New Jersey. But the mountains closed in around me as we drove into town and I panicked. Felt so claustrophobic that I simply kept driving until I reached the other coast...

I did enjoy four years in Knoxville, TN, but my preference is to be closer to the coast.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Someone asked me just the other day at a book event why I live where I live.  Good question.  We do have a few slightly rolling hills here north of Dallas, Rhys!  I grew up here, not in the town where I live now, but close enough that it is all home territory for me, and there must be some part of me that needs that grounding.  I have had fantasies of just pulling up stakes and going somewhere completely different, but... I have family here--my mother, still, and my daughter.  We love our old house, and our town (listed as one of most desirable places to live in the US, actually.)  And I don't think Rick and I could ever agree on a different place.  He likes big mountains--Colorado, the Rockies, which don't appeal to me at all.  I love the ocean.  I love green, soft rolling hills, lots of big trees.  And I LOVE cities.  In an ideal world I would probably choose a cottage somewhere in southern England, and a flat in London.  Dream on...

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING:  I'll join you in the Suffolk cottage and the flat in London, Deb!  I love where we live - a very rural area just a half hour from Maine's largest city - but I've loved everywhere I've lived. I think growing up in the military and moving so frequently in my childhood and youth gave me a different perspective on "home." My mother always said there's something to like in anyplace you go, and her philosophy has shaped how I approach my habitats. Ross and I have been in southern Maine for almost twenty-five years now (!!!)and I love the ocean and the mountains, but if we had to pull up stakes and move to, say, the flatlands of Illinois, I'd look forward to seeing what was exciting and different about the new place.

JAN BROGAN - This question is especially relevant for me because we put our house on the market with the idea of moving out of the suburbs and into the city.  We loved a few condos we saw, but when we came home and looked out into our beautiful yard with the granite ledge and everything in bloom, we looked at each other and said: Can we really move?   We're not entirely sure.

HALLIE EPHRON: I grew up in LA, but when I went to NYC for college I found the east coast much more to my liking. (Nowadays, visiting LA makes me feel old, fat, and poor.)

We live just outside Boston, walking distance to the subway. It's the perfect combination of quiet suburban (LOVE my backyard -- it calms me to sit there and watch the grass grow; I also love it that I can throw a big party and everyone can park easily on the street) and quick access to the city.

Havin' my cake...

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I grew up in flat flat flat Indiana...moved in my twenties to fabulous glorious Washington DC--loved. Power, insiders, center of the universe, it felt like. Moved to beautiful Atlanta--and it was terrific, but a much slower pace. Now after 30 years in Boston--I can't imagine living anywhere else. (South of France etc, and such, aside..) Even after all this time, I see the ocean, and think--whoa. We don't have this in Indiana.

But yeah, our 100 year old house is just outside of the city--takes us 14 minutes to get into town. Now our gardens are FILLED with tulips and the ducks are back

So let's hear from YOU. Do you live where you do because you have to for work? Or is it the place of your choosing?


  1. I live in NYC and Connecticut - and I love both places. I love the excitement of the city when I arrive - plus I have a nifty view of the East River - but can't wait to get away from the noise and the crowds when I leave! My garden in CT is so peaceful. When I get there I do a walkaround, whatever the season, to see what's changed in the garden, or what damage the deer and other critters have done. I think I need to be around trees and plants. Water would be nice too...maybe when my ship comes in!!

    In London now and visited Highclere Castle where they shoot Downton Abbey. I could very easily live there. ;-)

  2. I've lived in southern Wisconsin almost all my life and don't really want to live anywhere else. Sure, winters aren't so great and I miss sunshine, but if it weren't for winter I wouldn't be able to enjoy spring and fall. I love the lush greenness of the lawn and the trees. I like driving the back country roads with the rollercoaster hills and pastures of cows, horses and the occasional alpacas. Driving past pig farms, not so much. The north woods are within a few hours' drive, and lakes are rivers are everywhere. Although I'd make an excellent recluse, I can get to Chicago in a couple of hours if I want culture.

    I spent four months in Coronado, CA (San Diego area) and it was beautiful - 75 degrees, sunny, the ocean for a backyard. I drove to Tecate, Mexico every day for work and experienced a little bit of mountains. I loved the scenery (that would be the Navy SEALs running every morning in their skimpy little bathing suits), but after four months I was so ready to go home.

  3. When I go places, I always do look at the houses and apartments and think--what would it be like to live here?

    Ro, you must tell us more about the castle! My husband and I are late to the trend, only a couple episodes into season two. But now I totally get why everyone loves it. So interesting that a building dominates the lives of these people!

  4. How interesting - Highclere Castle, really? Just looking at it makes me want to wrap up in a winter coat.

    When I look at great big houses and imagine living there, all I can I think is: "so many bathrooms to clean." Never mind that if I could afford the house I could afford the help. But I like my digs cozy.

  5. Like Julia, I grew up moving all the time, and I tend to find something I like about every place I visit. After a childhood as a rolling stone, I wanted to give my own kids a stable, storybook childhood, so I've lived in Kansas City in the same house for over 30 years. Don't know how that happened.

    I love NYC, but when flying back home, I notice a constraint that I'd not been aware of lift off my neck and shoulders as we hit the Midwest and more space with trees, etc.

    KC is a beautiful town with lots of rivers and creeks, rolling green hills, distinctive neighborhoods,a lively cultural scene, and low cost of living. Our two big drawbacks are climate and lack of good public transport.

    Mountains or hills, rivers, lakes, or ocean--these are important to me. But I could be happy anywhere.

  6. Ro, I'm so jealous that you're visiting Highclere! On my list for my next visit to England... That and the Dartmoor Zoological Park, having just seen We Bought a Zoo. (In the movie they changed the setting to CA, but it's really England.)

    I got to show off a bit of Dallas to my fellow REDS who visited for ALA in January, but was sorry they only got to see downtown and freeways. There's so much more.

  7. When I was in England once I was looking in a real estate agents window with a friend. I saw an estate on ten acres with oodles of bedrooms--then I looked at the price and said, "I could actually afford this."
    My friend raised an eyebrow. "Ah, but could you afford to heat it?" she said.

  8. Rhys, I know what you mean about a mountain. I grew up in Mill Valley beneath the sleeping Miwok maiden. I haven't lived in the Bay Area since I graduated from college...Would I live in Marin again? Sure--if I could afford it!

    I live in Portland, Oregon, and one thing I've learned: I need sun! So, this isn't the best place for me. I moved here because this is where my parents migrated, and now I stay because my mom needs more help these days. Portland itself is a very cool city, so I'm grateful for that.

  9. We enjoyed downtown Dallas, Debs, though would have liked to see more...

    Lisa, Portland is SUCH a cool city. And the Oregon coast is gorgeous too. And lucky lucky for your parents that you are close by!

  10. I MUST live near salt water; I MUST. I grew up in a southwestern CT town on Long Island Sound and I now live in another town on the Sound, closer to New Haven. It was a family situation that brought me here. My plan was to stay just a few months, until things calmed down. But I fell in love with the town - it's about half the size as the one I came from - and bought a condo here. That was in the late '80s. I would move only to another town near salt water,ad it must be no bigger than where I live now. I like knowing the people who represent me in local government, even if I don't agree with them! I like the feeling of "belonging"that I have here. I like the fact that people in this town are aware of the town's place in history.

    My favorite vacation place is Chincoteague VA. In my dreams,I have a second home there-salt water,plenty of birdwatching,nature trails to explore. I haven't been able to afford a trip there for a few years. I mis it!

  11. I currently live in Alameda, CA (the East side of the SF Bay), & I love it. It's small enough to not feel overly-crowded like I did in NY or Chicago, but it's big enough so that people don't know my business unless I want them to (unlike the Podunk town I grew up in).

    However, if I could live anywhere I want, it would have to be somewhere in France or Italy. I LOVE the European way of life, & while I realize no place is perfect, I think I'm too familiar with the hypocrisy here in the U.S. It would be a while before I noticed the larger flaws in Europe, & I could just bask in the amazing countryside & culture.

  12. A lot of people have commented on my Facebook page and one thing that came out, which was obvious when I thought about it, was that feeling content where you live has a lot to do with family and friends being close by. It's great to live in paradise but not if there is nobody to share it with!

  13. Loved, loved, loved living in Seattle from 77-81 and again from 84-92. Perfect place for a Montana kid to go to college, then return to work -- and to visit. But living in the woods outside a little village in NW Montana is PERFECT for me now. Everything I need here, a few minutes away, or half an hour away in Kalispell. Incredible beauty, quiet, and places to play.

    Except tulips. B/c we have deer and yes, I have fenced gardens, but need another one close to the house for those lovely bulbs....

  14. Did anyone mention Italy? On the water a must.

  15. One of the great pleasures of reading is that I'm able to travel to so many places I may never actually see in person.

    I'm from San Francisco, CA, and grew up a mile from the ocean. While my best friend has gone to live in Arizona, I'm in heaven with morning fog and salt air. Fourth of July fireworks just don't look right to me unless they're viewed through the haze of fog.

    For the past 25 years my husband and I have made our home in the Santa Cruz Mountains within reasonable commute distance to his job in Silicon Valley, but also with a view of Monterey Bay, the absolute best of both worlds. Our community is a conservation cooperative, 1200 acres with only 120 homes, so there's loads of room, plenty of wildlife (in addition to our 4 indoor-only kitties and constant stream of nieces and nephews) and it feels like living in a tree house.

    I love to travel, and we have plans to do more of that when he retires in a few years, but this is where we both want to spend the rest of our days.

  16. I grew up in Pennsylvania, and when my hubby and I were dating, we visited friends in FL. I knew it was home, but just needed another 5 years to convince the man! We moved 13 years ago and I love it here. We do not live on the beach, but we will when the kids are grown. I could be happy anywhere there is a beach...sometimes I think that a nice northern beach would be neat but I hate the cold.

    Did love England and Wales when we visited there. (great grandfather came from Mold, and great grandmother from Swansea, Rhys)

    Would like to see many places but I think I'm already home.

  17. Rhys, that is a gorgeous picture! we had a view of Mt. Whitney near our house in California. It was wonderful, but not as green and lovely as your view.

    Lucy, I had that experience driving across the country. The further I got from the ocean the more claustrophobic I got. I thought I would get over it, but after 5 1/2 (?) years in Arizona, I feel the same. The political climate here doesn't help. I must get back to the North Shore.

    Linda, I'd like to be more like you. I try to love wherever I am. I do have things I like everywhere, but living here is getting to me. Book Bans and the latest today - Jan brewer's veto of the gun safety legislation.

  18. I grew up in "upstate" new york, spent time at Aunt&Uncles camp on lake champlain, picnics at Lake George with family/friends or someones yard - we picniced if it was 50 and raining or 85 and sunny, inexpensive, had to eat anyhow; I miss picnicing.

    I moved to Fla in '78 - new adventure, met hubby stayed til '95 - we moved to NE Tennessee (not a state I ever pictured living in) still live in TN as hubby has job, it's ok, but really not a place I would like to retire

    But........if I had my choice - I'd be back in upstate NY or VT with a summer place in Cape Cod.

    I miss the Adirondacks, so many lakes and gorgeous countryside, I miss New England in summer and fall, cape cod,cheese shops in VT, old buildings and graveyards - so much history.

    For me - A cottage on a small lake in Adirondacks or VT, sloping green lawn to beach, lots of shade - and a cottage on the northside of Cape Cod on the beach

    I've been drawn to England since I read my first Agatha at 7yrs - I think I lived in St. MaryMead in another life and would glady live there if I could :o)

    When I win the lotto - I will invite you all for lots of fun, eating, reading (writing for you all that write) and lots of relaxation

  19. Reine, you're not alone. I think I'd have trouble living in Tucson in that political climate, not to mention the fact that I could easily be arrested and deported for "walking while brown." It's a physically beautiful place with lots of good things, but that would make it a no-go for me.

  20. Linda, definitely do I get that about Arizona and dark skin. Scary place here. The latest: As you know Jan Brewer already signed into law legislation prohibiting the teaching of Hispanic/Latino cultural studies. Earlier today she signed into law a bill allowing public high schools in Arizona to offer an elective high school course on the Bible and its role in Western culture. Ummmm... I am nervous about what is happening here. I hold an MDiv. I was a member of the faculty of divinity at my school where I supervised theology and ministry students in field work at the North American Indian Center of Boston-- so it's not like I don't appreciate multiple theologies in an academic setting. But this business of saying students can't study the culture of "the other," but they can study the culture of the dominant group through their cannon I... I don't know what to say. I am so angry. It's worse and getting worse. If this is tolerated here, it won't stop here.

  21. Linda, a friend just pointed out that the Arizona law was very specifically directed at Mexican American cultural studies and history.

    Mar, I love upstate New York and Vermont. I spent many summers in Charlotte, Vermont on Lake Champlain. We would sneak a ferry ride across to New York and buy candy. I read in Yankee Magazine that one of the boys I used to do that with grew up to be the ferry pilot.

  22. Reine, I don't see a problem with the elective course on the Bible and its role in Western culture (though I do find myself wondering how it happens that the legislature and governor are setting individual courses in the curriculum). It's the pitting one against the other--yes on the Bible and no on Latino studies--that so troubles me.

    The funny thing is that the Bible and Christianity are very big in Latino circles. They're hardly mutually exclusive--unless they're teaching things that aren't in the Bible.

  23. Linda, I agree with you about biblical studies, but this needs to be seen, please, in light of the banning of Mexican-American studies in Tucson, Arizona - an area that used to be part of Mexico where our state history that can no longer be taught in light of culture because it makes Mexican-American students resentful? We need to embrace plurality, cultural identity, understanding, and the study of history no matter how painful. Biblical studies and the history of missionization of Native Peoples was a focus of mine at Harvard. I love the topic. It did not stop me from becoming a minister. My fellow Native students studied the same topics and still embrace their churches.

    Yes, the bible can illuminate history, but not if you must leave a large piece of that history out. That is what is happening here. This law, signed by our governor, Jan Brewer, yesterday, allows teachers to teach the bible as a course on the influence of "good western values" as it influenced American/Arizonan history but not Mexican-American studies regarding the history of the area, because it "upsets the students" and turns them against those who hold western values.

    That is how these laws are linked. The fact that that the legislature is allowed to dictate such things is alarming. It speaks to control of the sacred to promote dominance of one culture over another. some of us call it racism.