Where is your primal landscape?

Since I published my memoir, I’ve been thinking more about the idea of “place.”

I read this quote today by Fiona Stafford on the On Being website:

“Place” is more personal and multi-dimensional altogether. It is temporal as well as spatial, because it thickens with personal memories, local stories, history and archaeology. It’s not just a question of how things look, but of how things feel to those who know it well.” (http://www.onbeing.org/…/fiona-stafford-place-is-a-lan…/9086)

Writer Don Gayton calls it one’s “primal landscape.”

Growing up in a country with such an intense sense of “place,” I never considered until I was an adult that some people didn’t equate belonging with geography. As I put it in my memoir,

“I couldn’t believe my ears when I first heard someone say, “Home is not a place.” How could home not be a place? What in the world did that mean? Was a profound connection to geography, cultural? Was I operating under a fundamentally different set of values than the people around me? Was this Korea’s influence, the result of growing up in an country rooted in the love of motherland? Did I have a profound, inner soul-pull of the people of kohyang (hometown), a people whose country’s founding mythology was based on a real mountain, a place that existed, a place they still knew?”

When I think about the struggles I went through in my 20s, when my family returned to the U.S., I believe a lot of it had to do with the loss of “place” – the loss of not only Korea, and all of the sights, and sounds, and people, and history I had in that place – but the loss of belonging somewhere. I was a rooted person who had lost her roots. But that place stayed inside of me. Korea stubbornly embedded there. My connection to that one place went so deep that I couldn’t shake it. And my disconnection from that place was an open wound that could not seem to heal.

This has me curious. Do you equate home with a place? Or people? Or a feeling? Is place important to you? What is (or are) the place(s) that formed you into who you are at a deeper level? What are the geography and customs and people that gave you your fundamental understanding of what the world is all about? Who taught you how to greet and grieve? Who and what place helped you understand what to value, how to treat other people, how to give and receive gifts, how to relate to your community?

Where is your primal landscape?

Where Do You Want to be Buried?

Last week I addressed the question, “what is home?” A friend from my Korea days posted a reflection on “The Grace of Place” from the Columban Mission Institute:

“But as sensate human beings, we know an awareness of place is more than survival. We like to belong to a place. Places care for us. Place is in our memories, telling the stories of where we have come from and helping define who we are. Place informs our world view. It is part of our culture, where we celebrate our rituals.”

Another persons said it came down to the question of “where do you want to be buried?”  I’ve asked this question of myself many times. For some reason I think it matters.

I’ve always believed in the importance of rituals. Growing up in a country of ritual and tradition taught me it matters where we live, how we grieve, and where we bury our dead. I remember as a young girl passing green mounded countryside gravesites of South Korea. During the fall festival of Chuseok the hillsides came alive with family members grooming graves, setting offerings of fruit, rice cakes, and soju, and bowing to ancestors. Something in these gestures taught me it was important to pay homage to the people who came before us, to remember where we come from. In Korea, Chuseok is a time for people to connect with their roots. Across the country trains are packed and roads are jammed with cars carrying people to their hometowns. I always wanted to be buried on one of those Korean countryside hills.

This got me thinking. What rituals, if any, do you still keep that remind you of home? If you live far away from your people and the place(s) you consider home, what keeps you connected to those people and places? And lastly, when the time comes, where do you want to be buried or scattered? Do you think it matters?


Thanks for all the comments from last week’s posting. I compiled a few of them here.

Home is where you are understood.

We find home in the people who understand us regardless of where we are. 

…I felt like I had moved home – to a place I needed and where I could give back. Its amazing to live somewhere where people will go to extraordinary measures to help their neighbors.

I had an ah ha moment many years ago that home for me didn’t exist, because by definition I am a permanent foreigner. I will always be an outsider and this is actually what I am best at doing.

Home for me is the charcoal fires of Africa (most of it), the Maine coast, sometimes Heathrow terminal 5, and always when I come home to my two and four footed men. It is complex and terrifying and often painfully lonely, but I know the search well. And is the search for home running from something or to something. For me, home is when (not where, but when) I feel safe.

For me home is about feeling ‘safe’ and being seen and able to express myself without feeling judged. 

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