What does it mean to "live in a place?" This is not a rhetorical question. It may be somewhat esoteric, but I have been pondering that question of late. I have yet to visit any place and not immediately wonder if I could live there. I don't mean to think about that. The prospect just comes unbidden as a tag-along to my sense of wonder at new places. It happens like this: I'm driving through town or around a neighborhood and something strikes me about the area, something reminiscent or on the other hand, some new pleasantry I haven't lived with before. I look around, feel sort of wistful and think, "I could live here." Warped-wood homes on stilts, rivers running through the city, tree-lined streets, friendly drivers waving at me, the smell of sea water, green growing things on all sides, a yarn store inside a yurt. Then when I get in the yarn store, I imagine what it might be like to live in a yurt!
Yurts don't have walls, you guys. I don't know about that one. I like open areas, but I like at least a couple of walls, even if I live alone. Once, when I lived in Korea many years ago, I took a bus trip from Seoul to the east coast with some friends. At that time, I was living with a family in a big house that had some plumbing and even though the "facilities" were outside the back door and were not part of the plumbing, at least there was a door I could shut, and there were walls. Well, on this trip to the country side, we had to walk a distance from where the bus let us off in front of the market to the farm house where we would be staying.
Off the side of the road were the facilities, a hole in the ground with three ... OK, I'll call them walls... three walls on poles. The missing wall at least faced away from the road, but there was one other problem. The walls didn't reach all the way to the ground! I'm going to let you put this one together. A latrine-type hole, flush with the ground (oh, wait...get it? "flush?" and of course, no flushing!) and three walls NOT flush with the ground. As a matter of fact, they were about a foot away from being flush. Would it ease your mind to know that it got very dark at night and there were trees off in another direction? Or are you going to start worrying about wild animals in the Korean countryside, now?
When I first moved to Anchorage, I spent about a month "residing" in a room at the center where I came to work. Our building has been converted from a set of joined condominiums (why is that not condominiae?) People reside there sometimes when they come for vision rehab training. It felt more than just a little strange to get up and get ready for work of a morning, and walk down the stairs to my office. My stairs let down into an area where we had some classes and staff meetings. I was never late for work during that month. What is it about not wanting your new co-workers to see you coming from your bedroom or bathroom to staff meeting? Just weird and uncomfortable.
I found an apartment, mostly to my liking, downtown. There are a lot of good reasons to live downtown. I like it very much. Ease of bus and foot travel, accessibility, proximity to "goings on," liveliness, diverse places to explore. Had a great "double" view from the 6th floor out over the inlet, across the rail yard, over to the mountains. On some clear days I could see Denali, 300 miles away.
I "lived" there for about nine months until I moved to this place where I am now. And now, I "live" here. It's very different. It's not downtown, but it's not far from downtown. I still have a nice view of trees on the property and mountains in the distance. When the Break Up floods subside, I can walk to a bus stop, but it will require transfering once to get to work on the bus. I'm not paying as much for rent, I have a very nice, fun, young roommate who goes to bed earlier than I do and we have a lot of walls in this place. It's almost, sort of, in a way as though we each have our own apartment within the apartment.
I travel a lot. I put my head on a lot of different pillows (but always with a clean towel as protection, because, let's face it. Do you really think they wash those things?) I move a lot. I've lived in cities, towns, countries, countrysides, deserts, mountains, seasides, north country frontiers. I've lived alone, with a few people, with a lot of people, with relatives, strangers, strange people, and friends, in houses, apartments, basements, high-rises, office buildings, old parsonages, motels (my least favorite "between real homes")and cabins. No yurts, yet.
It's not as though I am overly dissatisfied with life in general. I feel quite happy very much of the time, I think. I get homesick, I miss people, but I'm still pretty content with most of my life. I wonder why it is that I don't really stay put and why, when I know I don't want to ever go through moving again, I can't help fantacizing about living in a place I'm just visiting.
And then sometimes, I can't wait to leave a place. "Boy, I'm glad I don't live here! This place feeds my misanthropy!" That thought usually comes with noticing how people drive.