I’ve fallen in love with many places in my time. The shadows underneath the dining table, where I used to hide by my grandfather’s feet. The house where I grew up in Streatham, opposite the pebble-dashing business. Charles Bridge in Prague in the early hours of the morning before the tourists arrive. The Arts Centre at university and its adjacent library. The park where I walked our first dog, before I was allowed to go on the bus alone. The old pubs stinking of beer against the backdrop of parliament. The village in Germany where I stretched my wings and found I could thrive far away from home. The port across from the house we rented in Geneva, with the glassy lake and merry go round made of nets. Berlin, where my memories are scattered in pockets all over the city. The lagoon in Langkawi, where we woke on our honeymoon to home-made cake and lizards for neighbours.
I remember a lesson at school, back in the early days of learning German. We were discussing immigrants, and our teacher handed us a black and white drawing of a man, suitcase in hand, walking. Out of his feet came roots and they were being torn from the ground. I think of that picture sometimes, in this world overflowing with refugees. How painful it must be to part from your home, to know that you may never see the places you love again. How parts of you are left behind even as you move forward.
We need a connection to our surroundings as much as we need community. For me, place is about history and belonging. Its pull on us is almost primal, even in the developed world, driven increasingly by individualism and mobility. However far we venture, there are places that imprint themselves on us, inescapable. We think we shape these places, when in fact, they often shape us. Places such as these hold power, for better or worse, impacting our mood, breathing new life into old memories.
We are revealed by the places we hold dear. Tell me, if you can, not where you come from, but where home is for you. Not where your passport states, or where your parents live, but where your heart is most happy. Maybe I’ll visit one day and find a piece of you there.