Several years ago, upon hearing me rave about our former hometown, a fellow editor observed that I had “a strong sense of place.” Another colleague at the same publisher jokingly suggested that I may have missed my calling by not working at the Chamber of Commerce there. I had never thought about it before but it “hit home” with me, as I have always made it a point to live in places that feed my soul.
I can’t vouch for others, as I realize there can be issues that limit people from living where they like, but Linda and I willingly made whatever changes necessary to experience it for ourselves and it has been an amazing journey. Our perspective is that life is too short to live in ordinary places. And no less than Abraham Lincoln echoed this sentiment by stating, “I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives.”
As for us, it was the siren call of the sea that ultimately proved irresistible, and decamping here to the coast of Maine a couple years ago has been the best move we ever made. This is the first place we have lived without an alternate destination in mind so we feel like we may have finally found our home. There is simply something special about this place “where the mountains meet the sea.”
It was Maine native Henry Wadsworth Longfellow who wrote, “My soul is full of longings for the secrets of the sea and the heart of the great ocean sends a thrilling pulse through me.” And another Mainer, Rachel Carson, added, “Like the sea itself, the shore fascinates us who return to it….In the recurrent rhythms of tides and surf…there is the obvious attraction of movement and change and beauty.”
As I have meditated on the power of place in our lives I have collected a couple of other quotes that speak to it also. Author Cynthia Huntington noted in The Salt House: A Summer on the Dunes of Cape Cod, “It seems to me that the greatest adventure is to find a home in the world, particularly in the natural world, to earn a sense of belonging deeply to a place and to feel the deep response well up within you and become a part of you.”
And biographer Laura Dassow Walls writes in Henry David Thoreau: A Life, “No American writer is more place centered than Thoreau. Take him away from…Concord…and Thoreau is a different person. He learned this himself when he moved to New York City and tried to be like other writers, mobile and market driven. It was a disaster.”
I once nearly made the same move as Thoreau but rather than heading to New York City I landed on Cape Cod and it changed my life forever. Instead of the sounds of sirens and other noisy signs of the big city, I spent the best summer of my life at the beach, listening to the rhythmic ebb and flow of the tidal surf. And from attending to the quiet whisperings of my own heart there, that one detour led me to the place I call home today.