My husband hails from faraway New Zealand, and we often daydream about moving there. Yet despite the promise of living in a beautiful place with truly outstanding dairy products, and possibly hobbits, we’ve never managed to make the move. Over the past twenty-five years, the U.S. has become his home. And as for me—well, I have a somewhat tortured history when it comes to making big moves.
I was born in rural, southern Indiana, a place that probably has never been described as exotic. I never imagined a larger world until the summer I turned six, when we visited relatives in the dizzying, palm-dotted mecca of Los Angeles. Everything was so big, flashy, and loud! I had a good time that summer, but I wasn’t sad to return home to our familiar corner of the planet. For me, then as now, there was no place like home.
Four years later, when my mother decided we should move to Los Angeles permanently, I dug in my heels. I didn’t want to leave my home, my family and friends, my school, the wheat field where I used to lie on my back for hours and look up at the big, open sky. Suddenly Los Angeles, a mildly amusing vacation destination, seemed threateningly foreign, a blinding maze of asphalt, freeways, and taco stands.
Well, I was only ten years old, so I lost that battle. I’ve lived in southern California for most of my life now, and it’s hard to imagine living anywhere else. I would miss the enchiladas, just for a start. I’ve come a long way from the days on the farm. I’ve traveled to foreign lands and married a man from a country which, a few years before our wedding, I would have been unable to locate on a map. I eventually became the first in my family to graduate from college, a sort of foreign country for the mind.
But I’ve never completely outgrown the Indiana farm girl parochialism. I’m still a little wary of unfamiliar food. I’m unenthusiastic when my TV channel-surfing husband pauses on a Chinese film with subtitles. And I am ashamed to confess that, on occasion, I have made uncharitable assumptions about other people based solely on the fact that they are different from me.
The irony is that Sagittarius, the sign of the pilgrim—the traveler to other lands—was rising in the east at the moment of my birth, and a cluster of planets were hovering in the part of the sky we call the ninth house, the house of Long Journeys Over Water. I came into the world, it seems, to sojourn, and to sample the world’s cultural delights.
But I am a reluctant pilgrim, born with many planets in signs that are fixed by nature, intractable, bent on holding onto and mastering the known instead of expanding into the unfamiliar. A creature of habit, I would be happy to spend every day in the same place, with the same people, doing the same things; but the world has had other plans for me, periodically placing me on a collision course with upheaval and the unfamiliar. (more…)