When I was in college, a friend and I walked into an art gallery one night, looked at each other, and walked out. It could have been the fifth or sixth we’d been in that night. For some reason, we felt like something was off in that one. We both sensed danger in that building, and with it, we had an instinct, almost to run. We felt better outside, and better still, once we weren’t near it.
Plenty of people have talked about that kind of instinct. Today, even more people talk about PTSD and how people store atrocities in their bodies. We sadly live in a world where wars, lengthy military service, and atrocities make it likely that people carry negative experiences and places with them. We know this because it’s engraved in contemporary culture. We know this because it’s happened to us or people in our circles, and seemingly, people everywhere.
Lately I’ve been thinking about how we also sometimes carry better memories of place inside us, too. One day recently, I was sitting in the living room in Washington, D.C., and I could feel Fayetteville, Arkansas, a college town where I last lived more than twenty years ago. I’m not sure how I could have told a bystander, “This is Fayetteville.” I’m not even sure I could tell you what that feeling is, that intangible sense that I identify specifically with the place. It’s like an energy that shoots out of me, but it’s unmistakably also the town where I first got to be an adult. I wouldn’t associate it with anywhere else—especially nowhere else I’ve lived. In talking to those who study somatics for coaching practice, it’s what I would call the somatics of home. There might be an image attached, say the spot in the middle of the hill on the way to the UARK English Department coming up Dickson Street, or a song that I liked to play in my car when I was twenty-one and driving in the more elevated part of the city, looking at the stars and the lights from houses where graduate students generally didn’t live. I don’t think that’s it, though. It’s not so simple as an image or a sound. It’s a feeling, like comfort, happiness, love, and a hug, all tied up together, in total absence of anything that might have gone wrong while I lived there. I know the reality of my life there, and this feeling isn’t a lie, even though my life there wasn’t perfect. It’s more like I’m channeling Fayetteville’s Higher Self, the part that feels like home even though sometimes it was the place where I existed briefly on my way somewhere else.
I wasn’t born there. In fact, I might have spent three years of forty-five there. But I decided it was mine, and it has been, every time I’ve gone back to visit, and sometimes, when I’m sitting in a room somewhere else. My challenge—and maybe yours, too—it to physically call on homes when they are far away, and to know that whatever else we store, we store them, and they, in turn, meet and collect us wherever we are.
Christina uses her Integral Coach training in higher education. Her writing has appeared in several journals and anthologies including Crab Fat, BioStories, Big Muddy, Sinister Wisdom, Hashtag Queer, Volume 3 and Is it Hot in Here, or Is It Just Me? .
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