Archive for August 2012

I am searching for a home.  My true home.

 No, I’m not searching in the literal sense.  I know I am lucky to have a happy, stable home where I can return to my childhood bedroom and feel safe and loved.  But I don’t know where I truly belong right now.

I read the blog of a friend who’s beginning college now, and that helped me understand what I’ve been feeling since this time last year: I don’t know where my true home is.  When I meet new people at Brandeis or elsewhere, I tell them I’m from Chicago, which is true.  I grew up there, I know Deerfield like the back of my hand, and I enjoy and appreciate the best of Chicago.  But I don’t plan to move back to Deerfield after my college years, unlike many people in my class.  Deerfield was a fine place to grow up, but I don’t see my future in the Midwest.  I see a life beyond coming back to the town where I was raised.  I’m probably more of a coastal person, because they say innovation happens on the coasts.    

There’s always California, my first home (and lifelong second home, with all my relatives there).  This time last year, we went back to my birthplace of San Francisco while I was preparing to leave for college, and I was overcome with emotion.  I cried because CA was my first home, and every time I came back, it felt like we’d never left, because of all our relatives and our history there, but the life I knew was back in IL, and back then I was ready to leave but still sad to leave my familiar high school friends. 

And now I’ve begun a new life in a new place – Boston.  Okay, this new life centers around Brandeis rather than Boston proper, but I now have more friends from the East Coast than ever before.  I spend my days there for 8-9 months of the year now, and have reasons to come back to Boston and reasons to miss it when I inevitably have to leave – that counts as a home of sorts, right?  Until the semester or year inevitably ends, and it’s time to pack up and leave again.

The amazing thing is that there will always be either poetry or song lyrics that perfectly describe your mental/emotional/spiritual state.  Now it’s this lyric: “If I stay in one place, I lose my mind, I’m a pretty impossible lady to be with.” (Kimya Dawson, “Tire Swing”).  I am torn between two desires.  I am still a young and restless soul, who wants to run from the monotony of one place and explore and experience the wonders of this vast world while I’m still young.  But at a certain point, I get tired of all the metaphorical running, starting temporary relationships, and waiting to be reunited with all my friends in faraway cities.  I wish I could live in one place, somewhere secluded and beautiful, yet full of life, untouched by time and life’s changes, and keep everyone I love there with me, an arm’s length away. 

Home is where the heart is.  I’ve heard those words my whole life, from my parents, from stories, and maybe it’s true, but it makes me a bit sadder now.  Home is not simply a place, it’s a transient state.  Life itself is a transient state – here one moment, gone the next, and then it begins again – and people are always changing, always in motion.  I see home as any place where you feel a meaningful attachment, to someone, something, anything.  So by that logic, the entire world is my home.  I carry something with me from everywhere I’ve been.  And right now, that is the way it should be.   



Hello and welcome back, my reader (or readers?  On a good day…).  Maybe no one is reading this, but that is all right.  Runners run for the runner’s high, artists paint when they’re inspired to, and I write when the spirit moves me, to quote William Faulkner, whether there’s a reader on the other end or not.

Today I’m experimenting with travel writing, and trying not to sound like a fourth grade essay prompt, “What I Did Over My Summer Vacation.”  We are back from an amazing 10-day-long trip to the South (Tennessee and Little Rock) and Los Angeles, and I’m just trying to process the memory of all the new sights we experienced, before we fall back into everyday life.

The most transformative experiences come from stepping out of one’s comfort zone, and that’s exactly what we did.  We visited five cities that were new to me, and I purposely didn’t research anything or read travel reviews before arriving because I wanted to come free of preconceived notions.  Every day of traveling was like a new world in itself.

So I present, another condensed list of highlights: Ten Things To Do and See In Tennessee.  (In no particular order.)

(And a disclaimer: I do not own these photos.)

  • Take a hydrofoil cruise down the Chattanooga River Gorge.  You will never regret a bit of eco-tourism.  And when you have the choice to see Lookout Mountain (the mountain that borders TN and GA) from your air-conditioned seats or to watch from atop the boat, with binoculars for bird-watching, choose the adventurous path.  I’m glad we did.

  Chattanooga Aquarium, which runs the river cruises.

  • Hike the Smoky Mountains in central Tennessee, en route to Nashville.  There’s no reception in the mountains, and it will feel so refreshing to disconnect for an hour or two.  Beware of black bears on a bear alert day.  When you decide to go hiking, choose a trail that safely pushes you out of your comfort zone.  We chose the ½-mile-uphill trail to Clingman’s Dome, the highest point in Tennessee, and were treated to the view of miles and miles of woods before another torrential Southern downpour rolled in.  I am grateful to the people who cheered us on while we were climbing – “You’re almost there!” – and proud that we paid it forward.  There’s another philosophy for life: Always try to make another person’s journey a little easier.

  • If you like country music, love it, or even just listen occasionally, then visit the Country Music Hall of Fame in the heart of Nashville.  I’ve grown to like country music in the last year because the lyrics are so universal, so what better place to experience it than in the city where country music was born?  The museum takes you chronologically through the recent history of country music, from the sixties to the young stars of today, from Patsy Cline’s wardrobe to Taylor Swift’s, and reminds the country fans of today that their genre of music has a rich history, and is a key part of America’s history too.
  • Speaking of country music, go attend a concert at the Grand Ole Opry.  It will be the most fun concert you ever attend: intimate and informal, big enough to attract top performers but also a place to showcase gems like Little Jimmy Dickens, a feisty 92-year-old singer.  Also, watch for concert greeters who need to fill the front row for the show taping, and offer you front-row seats!  Yes, this happened, and I sat five feet away from my current favorite country ensemble, The Band Perry!

  • When in Memphis, put on your blue suede shoes and go to Graceland.  You will want to sing, dance, and you will leave inspired by the fact that Elvis Presley was not only the most iconic rock star of his generation, but a humanitarian and a regular man whose daughter grew up playing on the same swing-set that I once had in my backyard.  (True story.)  We were there the week before the 35th anniversary of his death, which added to the experience.  And another little-known fact: Elvis AARON Presley was part Jewish!  In related news, the Jewish-American coolness rating just gained a few more points.


  • Also in Memphis: If you need something to restore your faith in how far our country has come, visit the US Civil Rights Museum.  The museum is hauntingly built around the actual motel balcony where MLK Jr. was assassinated.  It will show you the darkness of history, but ultimately inspire you to take the continued work of the civil rights movement into your own hands.

  • Cheat on your diet with Southern cooking.  It’s inevitably going to happen sometime, so would you rather indulge on ordinary fries at your local fast food chain, or on the warm biscuits and grits at a famous little restaurant where they treat you like family?  (Love the Southern hospitality.)  This time we stopped at the Loveless Café just outside of Nashville, famous for their biscuits.  We were not disappointed.
  • Pick up some new knowledge along the way.  Did you know that Tennessee is called the Volunteer State because it was part of neither the North nor the South during the Civil War, and people volunteered to fight with the North?  Neither did I, until this trip.
  • Accept and appreciate that that cowboy boots and Stetsons will never go out of style in Nashville.  (See, Stetsons ARE cool.  Someone will get the reference.)

I think we visited this exact store.

  • Here’s another fact — Nashville has its own Parthenon, in the middle of the city, complete with a 42-foot-tall statue of Athena.  You have to see it to believe it.

  • And last but not least, if you’re ever in Little Rock, visit the Clinton Presidential Library.  I guarantee it will inspire you to see the continuing humanitarian work of a president in all of our lifetimes.  Another fact – The Clintons actually live on the top floor of the library when they are in Arkansas!

The greatest lesson of this vacation is that an insightful and memorable trip can happen ANYWHERE in the world – it doesn’t always require leaving the country, and there is just so much to be explored even within our own country.  There is so much variety within America alone, and I was reminded of that.

“O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!”

And how do we top a trip like this?  We ended on the happiest possible note, with the arrival of our new baby cousin Ellie Violet while we stopped for some family time in LA!  I still marvel at the fact that there is a new person in the world this week.  And she is named Violet for our beloved Grandma Ibi (Violet), who died at this time of year four years ago.  Now the circle of life is complete.