When seeking a sense of place, what fulfills the needs to feel a part of a community, to feel as though we belong?
When seeking community in nature, there is a cyclical familiarity that only develops more over time. The plants that show up each year, in that same sweet spot. Whether they are green beings we've planted and tended to ourselves, or those sturdy trees that are consistent pillars in the background. The bond becomes stronger when we visit our plant allies year after year and become aware of their habitat, their presence, and their uniqueness. The feeling of a new place can seem even more unfamiliar when we haven't acquainted ourselves with the flora that surrounds us, yet taking the time to sit with these beings has given me the joy of being with a familiar friend. I have already grown fond of a stately White Pine in the center of our back field. The time spent around him, gathering fallen branches for medicine and encircling the large base on walks, has already become an enjoyable, routine part of time spent outside.
Seeking community amongst people is a practice in patience. We have lived in Southern New Hampshire for four years now, we have a handful of dear friends that we now feel are as close as family. The relationships have developed over time to become comfortable and unconditional. Friends that meet you wherever you are, friends that show up consistently, that provide a dear space to gather. The conundrum in rural New Hampshire is where you meet these kindred souls. We were fortunate enough to live on a large property, with other folks on the land, that became our dear friends. The relationships formed naturally, as neighbors nearby can eventually become friends.
Relationships outside our direct neighbors took longer to cultivate. As these times were more planned, took time to seek out, and make time to be with one another. We have met people through work, through homestead groups, through mutual friends. We share some common ground and conversations can linger for hours. These have become friends we call to share a meal with, mushroom hunt in the woods with, or split and stack wood beside. Whether next door, or an hour drive away, these friendships have made us feel a part of something we can now call community.
I always felt when traveling the country that community was exactly what we were missing. We would live in a place for thirteen weeks at time a time, as that was the length of the travel nurse assignments. We would form friendships and spend time with the people we would meet, then we would pack all our things into our Toyota Corolla, and journey on to the next place. This left a massive void in me, something I did not recognize right away.
Eric and I began traveling in 2012, we were seeking adventure and excited to see the country. I did not realize what community meant to me at the time. Each place we lived in grew on us over time, the people would grow dear to us, and leaving would always be bittersweet. After visiting multiple places, Eric and I would discuss that the best sense of a place was always the locals. The sturdy people of a place that maybe never left, that were 'born-n-raised' in a community. These locals provided the best conversation and left a true impression of what a place was all about. I vowed to Eric that after travelling I wanted to become one of those people. I wanted to give a traveler a sense of what the local community was like, of what our own local area was all about.
It is ironic that this is what sits with me most at the thought of two year journey. That we were to arrive home and have pride in the place we've always been. In knowing the quirks and the intricacies. We only drove 10,000 plus miles to figure it all out.
“ We shall not cease from exploration,
and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started
and know the place for the first time.”