Thursday, February 27, 2014

I Left My Heart in...

RHYS BOWEN: Like my Jungle Red sisters I moved away from home to go to college and never really went back. All the time I was growing up I had a fascination with Australia. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that one of my best friends at school had recently moved from Australia and seemed very exotic to me. Also my uncle Uncle lived there and he would send me a book every Christmas called "Wonderful Australia in Pictures" or a similar title. I'd pour over the color photographs of sunkissed beaches, red rocks, strange animals and dream of going there someday. After college I was working with the BBC in London and I got a chance to meet the head of Australian Broadcasting. I told him of my interest in Australia and he offered me a job, So I packed up and headed halfway across the world to Sydney.
I was entranced by the clear bright light, the strange birds and animals, the blue water of the harbor. It was truly like living in a Disney movie. Also the people were friendly and didn't take life to seriously. How can you not love a country where every business closes to watch the running of the Melbourne Cup horse race?

But I never had a chance to settle in properly because I met a man. An Englishman working for Qantas. And I married him, dear reader.  But he was on his way to California, so I found myself living in San Francisco instead. I've not regretted coming to the States, but each time I've returned to Australia (to visit my parents who moved there, and later my brother who still lives there) I've wondered whether my destiny was supposed to be there and I blew it.

I started writing this theme because I'm fascinated that there are some places in this world where we feel instantly as if we belong. I've never had much affinity for London. I lived there. I know my way around very well, but it doesn't call to me with a siren song. But Paris--that's another matter. The moment I arrive in Paris I feel as if I should never leave again. I could sit for hours at a sidewalk cafe, soaking up the atmosphere. Or stroll along the Seine, browsing at the bouquinistes stalls. Or the Impressionists at the Musee d"Orsay. I feel alive every minute I'm there. I could easily live in one of those top floor apartments with the balcony. Paris is much in my thoughts recently because I set my upcoming Molly Murphy book, CITY OF DARKNESS AND LIGHT, there and had a great excuse to wander all over the city, finding the perfect places for my plot to play out.

So what makes some places feel like home to us while we are untouched by others. Did I live in Paris in a previous life? And what drew me to Australia? Do you think there is really a "right' place for us to live, a destiny, if you will?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: When I was a--oh, I don't know, teenager, in Indianapolis,in the 1960's I always wanted to live in Boston. ALWAYS. I'd never been there, and I'm not even sure where this idea came from.  When I moved to Washington DC in the early 70's I adored it. Atlanta for five years--fine, gorgeous. Then at one point, I got job offers in Dallas, San Francisco, Washington DC and Boston. I visited all four places--and whoa. I'd been right since 1963. I enjoy Boston every day.

But when I go to Paris? Yes, indeed. I could live there in a heartbeart.

HALLIE EPHRON: I grew up in southern California, Beverly Hills to be precise, and I confess whenever I go back there I feel old, fat, ad poor. Spent my college years and after in New York City. And yes, I feel completely at home when I'm there. I wouldn't want to live there, but I do so love to visit. Boston still feels like a place I'm visiting.

RHYS: This is funny, Hallie, because I still feel that I'm visiting in San Francisco or in Arizona. It's like a permanent vacation in the latter and the nagging worry about when do we go home?

LUCY BURDETTE: I would take a couple of months in Paris, New York, or Rome--anytime! I've lived a fair number of places--Michigan, New Jersey, Connecticut, Tennessee, Florida--and managed to feel like all of them were home eventually. But I have what my husband calls a deep "taproot." Meaning it's not that easy to transplant me. In a new place, I wilt for a while, feeling listless and down. Just like a plant. (Confession: I spent 5 months in France during my junior year and I did not take advantage of the possibilities...)

I had this conversation with a sister-in-law recently and mentioned how I get homesick when I travel very long. "Homesick for what?" she asked. "I don't get that at all."

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Rhys, I feel about London the way you feel about Paris. Instantly at home, instantly "right." I've never had an explanation. Past lives is as good as any.  Paris would be my next choice. I can see myself living there.  And an odd third choice, considering the first two--I love LA. I don't know why. I know it's smoggy and the traffic is terrible and it's dreadfully expensive, but my heart just lifts every time I go there. Weird.

So why have I never left Texas permanently? I love Lucy's husband's description of a "tap root." I think Texas is my tap root. Even in London, I start to miss Texas if I am away too long.

RHYS: Past lives or just our personalities? Do you have a place you feel drawn to or destined to live? How important is a sense of place to you? Obviously very important to us, as you see from our writing.


  1. Some places, such as New York and the theater, will always be special and wonderful to visit . . . we went to Hawaii once and I must confess that it’s a place I’d dearly like to visit again.
    I’ve never had the opportunity to do a great deal of traveling, but we have moved around a bit and lived in a few different places. Now we are back where I started, in New Jersey. I guess I’m pretty much a homebody at heart . . . I often share Lucy’s feeling of being homesick when I do travel for any length of time. There are many places I would like to visit, but I think I’m happy living right where I am . . . .

  2. I grew up just a couple dozen miles from Hallie, even though I have now lived in Massachusetts longer than I lived in California. I love the north shore (north of Boston, that is) and feel very at home in New England. But when I fly west and cross the Rockies, I feel like I can breathe again. Those wide-open spaces, dry air, real mountains. I wouldn't live in LA ever again, but I love the parts of California that don't have too many people in them, plus the raw desert beauty of the other southwestern states.

  3. Ah, Paris. Who wouldn't want to live there, for at least awhile?

    After a friend retired she resolved to spend six months of each year in a Paris flat. We visited her for several days and got to see what it would be like to have our morning pain au chocolat and espresso at the corner boulangerie. Heaven.

    But I've feel that way about each place I've ever been: NYC, Boston, Boulder, San Francisco, Cody (Wyoming), Portland (either one), Chicago, London, Sydney, Florence, Cusco, Vancouver, the Galapagos, Northern Serengeti--they have all held allure, for one reason or another.

    Then I come back to Cincinnati and realize there's no place like home.

  4. Born and raised in Baltimore, it has always felt like home to me.

    I did relocate to San Diego for 7-8 years and I loved it. If fact, if the housing prices had been more affordable, I probably never would have left. But even then, I needed to return to Baltimore on regular trips.

    So, when it came time to settle down, I made the wise decision to return to Baltimore once again. Many of my family and friends were still there, so it just made sense. Couldn't be happier with my lovely arts and crafts style home in the suburbs.

  5. Maine had a magnetic attraction for me when I was a child, though I had little experience with it. Didn't go to camp in the Pine Tree State, didn't have family here. As soon as I graduated from undergraduate school I moved here, and have been here ever since, living in various parts of the state over the past 35 years.

    I'm on board with the past lives thing. In my spirit's past, I must have lived in Maine, and also in Newfoundland, where my sense of deja vu is palpable.

  6. Though my body is firmly planted in Toronto, where I was born, have lived most of my life, and will likely die, my heart's in the Highlands. And Lowlands. And Edinburgh.

    There's a nice niche carved out for Vancouver Island, too.

  7. I have lived in a lot of different places (city, suburb, exurp, rural and deep in the woods) and each one was home. But everytime I arrive in a landscape with long rolling hills there is a deep inner part of me that says "yes, this is just right."

    ~ Jim

  8. This is one of my absolutely favorite topics. When I was 28, I took a job teaching English in Vietnam. I'd never been there, but the very second I stepped off the plane into the swampy humidity, I knew - I was home. I fell in LOVE with that country, and I cannot explain why, but it had been my geographical soul mate for the past 20 years.

    That said, I also have a relationship with LA that I cannot explain. I was born in the Pacific Northwest, and that is definitely my home (as in my past), but LA speaks to me with its diversity, subtleties, and constant surprises.

    I will probably write about Vietnam, LA and Seattle for the rest of my life - as intimate a relationship that I have with them, I always feel that they can teach me something new.

  9. I was born in Maine and, other than a 20+ year exile in Massachusetts, I've only lived here. I've been lucky enough to travel a lot and when I tell people I'm from Maine they always say how much they love visiting there. I'm always thrilled to come home and look at my mountains.

    My heart, however, is in New Zealand and I've never been there.

    I got a pen pal from Australia when I was 10. We wrote until long after I got married. I was fascinated by her country and knew a lot more about it than everyone else in my class. I read everything I could about Australia. There's a long story about finally meeting her while she was doing an exchange teaching assignment in Ontario but it sadly doesn't end well.

    Then I discovered New Zealand! I have a good friend from outside of Auckland and I fell in love with her country through her stories, rugby (All Blacks!!!), America's Cup, and reading EVERYTHING I could. I have never been there but I know I'm destined to go and it's on the top of my bucket list. Haka anyone?

  10. My taproot is certainly in the Los Angeles part of Southern California. My husband and I tried moving back to the northern half of the state, where we both grew up, but ran back south after five years (it really only took one year to discover we'd turned into Southern Californians when we weren't looking).

    But Edinburgh holds a special place in my heart. I studied there a term in college, went back the next summer, and the summer after that. I still think of it as the place that calls to me.

  11. Sitting in a lovely hotel room in Orlando right now..looking out my window at palm trees! So funny that it's the instant indicator of--AWAY!

  12. Lucy/Roberta's words sum me up quite nicely. I too have a very deep taproot and get very homesick when traveling for long. (and long to me is a very short period of time for most others, I think).

    I'm a nester and have to build and feather my nest with things I love. Being away from my nest upsets my balance.

    Home of my heart will always, always be the Eastern Shore of Maryland. When we drive across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge I get a little weepy. When we drive across the little Choptank River Bridge going into Cambridge I just sob. Driving across when we leave I sob a little harder.

  13. I'm in the same hotel as Hank for Sleuthfest — and yes, there are palm trees! There's olso a very particular "Florida Vacation Smell" — equal parts humidity, hotel, and pool.

  14. Love that image of the taproot. Mine's in Montana, and while I dearly love the south-central part of the state where I grew up, I am even more at home in the northwest region.

    Why some of us have that feeling, I don't know -- plenty of others apparently don't. But I am a very placed person, and a placed writer. I am who I am because of these spaces that shaped me -- the big sky, the long horizon, the mountains and the pines.

    But Paris. Yes!

  15. I must have a deep taproot too. A week away from home (currently Pittsburgh) and I'm done - let's leave. Doesn't matter where it is, Florida, Buffalo, New York City, whatever. I want to go home to my own bed.

    Could I transplant? Probably. But not Paris. Or any other city. Or anyplace like Florida. A nice spread in the mountains with lots of trees and nature? Oh yeah, I'm there.

    Just don't ask me to leave once I'm settled in.

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  17. I would rather travel than be at home! Unfortunately, I can't afford to go away very often or very far. In the past 23 years I've vacationed quite often at Chincoteague VA, one of my favorite places. If I could afford it, I'd buy a vacation home there. It's the perfect place for nature lovers: bird watching, nature trails, swimming, fishing, etc.

    The place I would most like to visit is Great Britain, just about anywhere there. I love reading books set there and have often felt that I was supposed to have been British!

  18. I have had this topic on my mind because I have been thinking about "What's next?" I grew up in the Hudson Valley, NY & went to college in Connecticut. One year in Hamilton, NY & then I got married. We lived in the Bay Area for three years ('69 to '72) -- my husband in law school and me in grad school and teaching. LOVED IT. Deep into the McGovern for President campaign.
    But in '72 moved to the DC area and had my first child.
    Learned to love Maryland. Forty years.
    Cape Cod summers as I raised my children and got a masters and taught and got very deeply into church and volunteer work.
    Now on Cape Cod year-round. Challenging winter!!!
    What next?

  19. My home will always be in Nebraska, I know people would not think that is a "cool" place, but that is where I am from and I miss it. I think it is because of all the memories from growing up and family that is still there. I live in Florida now but it does not seem like home - I just don't fit in here. I would love to go to Europe one day - I think I could live there even though I would miss my homestate. I enjoyed your blog today and reading all the responses.

  20. I love Lucy's "taproot" name for that long and sturdy tie to a place. For me, I guess my taproot is Kentucky, and although I've lived almost 38 years in the western part of the state, I grew up in the northeastern part of the state, and it still calls to me. It is the place of my childhood memories, of my parents and other family, of childhood friends with whom I still communicate. It embraces me, even though I'm an infrequent visitor. The hills around the little river valley town of Maysville (also birthplace of Rosemary Clooney and Nick Clooney, George's dad) are like the arms of my family giving me a hug. What's crazy is that I don't know that I would ever want to live there again because the pull to the past is so strong. I think that's why I subconsciously married someone away from there, because I wanted the future to stand on its own. I didn't want the future to have to live up to the past? Gee, this probably does sound quite confusing or confused.

    Anyway, places that have felt immediately comfortable to me, places that call to me in my adult life, are Washington, D.C. and Key West. While these two places are vastly different, I find myself in a place where I love being in either locale. Of course, with Key West, I have that more relaxed, slip on my flip flops and slide along feeling.

    One place, or collection of places, that I have a longing for is somewhere I've never been. I think this feeling is where the whole past lives connection might come in. England is like a sacred thought that plays in my mind and warms me without ever having set foot on its shore. It is the home of my ancestors, the Boones, in Stoke Canon (near Exeter), so maybe its an ancestral calling. My love of British literature and books set in England reinforce this homeland feeling. I do plan on visiting England and Scotland (another place that I think I would fall instantly in home with) in the next few years. I already have a traveling companion lined up, a friend. My husband might be a bit of a buzz kill on my enthusiasm for running on the moors. LOL! He's just a bit too practical for a euphoria trip.

  21. As much as I love Arizona I will never feel right until I'm back home in Salem, Mass. The ocean. I need the ocean. I need sailing. I need the beach. I need the fisherman hanging out on the wharf. I need the art. I need the resources and the community. I need my friends who get it. I need cold weather. I need old stuff. I need my history.

  22. Since I read and watched Tv series "The Thorn Birds" by Colleen McCullough, a long time ago, I want to visit Australia. Not a short trip like in a 2-3 weeks vacations but a long stay. It's my retirement's dream to be able to go at least a couple of months.
    It's funny to think that as a french canadian, I am attracted at every "british" place. I visited Scotland, England, Ireland and could return to live there anytime.

  23. Very interesting that most of us started out mentioning cities, and yet landscapes call to us, too. I love gentle rolling hills, whether it be North Texas (once you get away from the concrete) or southern England. I love the ocean. But for my hubby it's mountains. I don't mean moors like the Scottish Highlands, I mean REAL mountains. He lived for a while in his twenties in Colorado right on the Continental Divide. Snow-covered peaks don't do a thing for me. Funny. But on the other hand, I've always been fascinated with Everest. People are just plain contrary.

  24. My "tap root" is Ohio. I lived there for 50+ years and could not visualize being happy anywhere else. But I went along with my husband's dream and moved to Arizona after I retired. Never expected it to be home but it definitely is. Reine and Denise Ann - some nice homes for sale in our community and I promise lots of friends.

  25. We moved a LOT when I was young (28 schools) but when I came to Ojai, Ca. in my teens I recognized my forever home. And I still absolutely love living here but offer me a second home in England and hey, I'm already packed. Boston is probably my favorite city in the states and yes, Paris is a great visit but, ahhhhh, London! Not just London, but Oxford, York, name it and I'm on my way.

  26. Oxford, England looks beautiful. But after watching "Lewis" for so many years, I'm not sure I could live there. It's the British version of Cabot Cove. =)

  27. I COULDN'T WAIT to get out of my hometown when I was a kid. And, once I left at age 18, I've hardly gone back, especially since my parents died.

    30+ years living & working abroad (mostly in conjunction with UNHCR) in nearly a dozen countries, with short time spent in as many more, and "place" doesn't really matter very much to me any more. Whenever I find myself "homesick", it's always just a state of mind that represents a "place" that never existed but that I wish had done so.

    Home is really where I left my heart and where it eternally resides: with my lovely wife, Ms Marta

  28. My "taproot" is southeastern Idaho, where I have very deep roots that go back 4 generations. However, my Mom and I visited London for the first time in 1990 and I have never felt so at home in a city - or anywhere - in my life. And when we walked into Westminster Abbey, it reached out to me and I'd been there before. We were on a tour and it was so frustrating not to be able to stay - for days and days. I've not been back but I'd love to go and spend more time.

  29. Forgot to say earlier that I MUST live near a beach. I drive past the beach on the way to and from work every single day. Someone asked why I do it in winter, too, "because you can't see anything". But I DO see plenty: I see the moonlight on the water, I see lights reflected in the water, depending on the time of year I see the sun setting on the water; I see waterfowl of all kinds. And I love it all. It has a calming effect on me.

  30. You guys are amazing today--with "homes" all over the map! Jim, you're very sweet:)

    Debs, interesting about landscape. I grew up in NJ, very connected to the ocean. But I was dying to get away and made a plan to go to Colorado with a pal. Could not believe how claustrophobic I felt in those mountains...

  31. Great topic: I think there's something in my DNA--I grew up and now live in northern Ohio, but my family all came from the hills of eastern Kentucky--before there was a Kentucky! Farther back roots mostly from England and Ireland--and so, mountains and sea draw me like a piped song luring me home again! And while I would love visiting certain places for extended stays--Boston, London, Paris, it is the landscape of home that feeds my heart flame--forests and fields, streams, and lake.

  32. I love London - and lived there for a while as a student - but I have to say it seems different to me now. Less British, more of an international conglomerate with throngs of tourists on every walkway.

    I felt instantly at home in the highlands of Scotland when Ross and I went on our honeymoon - maybe Deb's past-life idea? My mother's family came from there and settled in the piedmont of the Adirondacks, which has some of the same spare beauty.

    The city that I could easily see myself living in? New York. I've really come to know it since I became a published writer. Ross and I are getting close to getting out of the parenting biz, and we've actually talked about getting a pied-à-terre in the city. (Though after putting three kids through college, we'll probably only be able to afford a weekend in an AirBnB.)

  33. Yep, me too on that instant"at home" feel for London area.
    We have only been twice, but each time I felt some connection beyond any other.

  34. Kathy Reel, we have a farm in Falmouth, not far from Maysville. It's so beautiful in that part of the world.

  35. Karen, so glad you told me about your farm in Falmouth. Pendleton County is just a couple of counties over from Mason County/Maysville. We played them in basketball. Falmouth is even closer to where I spent the first two years of my life, in the little town of Germantown in Bracken County. Our house was on the main street in Germantown and half of it sat in Bracken County and half of it sat in Mason County, as the dividing line and sign designating the split was right in front of our house. My dad was in real estate and was familiar with the areas around Mason County, too, and he had a farm in Bracken and one in Mason. Sorry, I got a little carried away here.

  36. I have never been to England, but have dreamed of living in a small English village since I started reading Agatha Christie when I was about 7yrs

    I grew up in upstate NY, spent time in summers in the Adirondacks, when ever I get the chance to go back Home, I love it.

    There is a spot on the Northway, when heading to my Sbrothers cottage in the Adirondacks, that as soon as I hit that spot, I feel instantly at home

    We lived in Florida for 18 yrs and that also feels like home to me

    After 19 years in Tennesse, I still do Not feel like this is home, can't wait for DH to retire and move someplace else, not sure where, but I do not want to stay here

    My heart left loves in NY and Fl along the way

    If I could move anywhere in the states, it would be next door to my BFF from 1967 on. She lives in Idaho. I've never been to Idaho but would move there in a heartbeat if I could, because she is my BFF and I miss her like crazy, we got to see each other last year for first time in 35 years, we talk and/or text daily, but it's not the same as being there.

    I also love Cape Cod, salt air

    If I could move anywhere outside the states, I'd have to say an English village, I always feel I lived there in another life


  37. Growing up in Milwaukee, I hankered for New York City. When I moved there, at 17, to go to college, I knew the city was home (the college, not so much). And it was, and I hated to leave for law school, but my father pointed out that he could pay in-state tuition (less than 10% of what my tuition at Barnard had cost) at UW-Madison, and I was not one to turn down the offer. I meant to come right back to New York, but we had "diploma privilege" (I didn't have to take a bar exam) and there was this guy....

    I spent two summers in Florence, Italy, and studied Italian in college, and-- according to everyone I met there-- I look Italian, so I blend right in. I'd have been happy to live there forever. Or in San Francisco (which I visited in 1967, just before the "summer of love," and fell in love with). Or Los Angeles (where I spent several short sabbaticals, researching, writing and feeling very much at home).

    When I went back to NYU for a post grad certificate in Media Law, I felt very much at home again. Although I cried when I had to leave Madison, I'd happily relocate to Tuscany, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City, or Kona, if I were younger or had more money.

    So where has life offered me career opportunities? Milwaukee, to which I have adjusted (although more with resignation than enthusiasm) and Washington, DC (which I consider a nice place to visit, but no way would I want to live there).

    As I grow older, I am reminded that our family plot is in Milwaukee, so I guess ultimately I'll wind up here, but I'm still thinking-- especially this winter-- that there are places I would rather be.