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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Where we live, our roots, our commitments

I live in Grenoble, France.  I am doing my best to build a life here.
At the same time, I keep up my connections to my friends and family in the US.

I realized that if I stay in France and keep up visits to the US, these visits must involve the west coast, the east coast, and in between as well.  I come from California, and will probably always maintain the strongest sense of belonging there.  At the same time I spent three years in New York, and have relatives and a few friends there, so I will probably maintain a connection and visits to that area as well.  My US driver's license for now is in New York, so I ought to think of myself as at least somewhat connected to the place.  Finally, my mother lives in Fairfield, Iowa, and asks me regularly to visit her more often.  Its not so easy to get to where she lives, multiple flights involved and then some driving at the end.  The biggest city nearby is Chicago, and so I think of Chicago as the place to base visits to my mother out of.

This summer is a trip to California.  Just saying that is not adequate, though because California is such a big state.  My visit will involve three distinct regions: south, central and north.  I'll visit my uncle and other relatives in San Diego and Los Angeles (south).  I visit friends and a few relatives around San Francisco and Santa Cruz area (central), and finally family in Petrolia in Humboldt county (north).

I'd like to have been able to build my life out of a smaller geographical base, but this is where life has taken me.  I didn't ask for family and friends to move, although I'm the worst offender of all, having relocated first across the country, and then across an ocean.

There are lots of considerations as for how to build a life out of these places which span three US states and two countries.  There is one's relation to formalized nations and systems of rules of law.  Taxes, for example.  Bank accounts and credit cards.  Driver's license.  Passport.  Residency card.  Belonging to health care systems. 

Then there are ethical and social considerations.  To which nation do I owe my time and allegiance?  If I am this spread out, can I possibly be a responsible citizen, supporting a sustainable lifestyle that doesn't use more resources than the earth can support?

In any case, there are times for expansion in life, and times for consolidation.  I am trying to consolidate and build something with what I have now, rather than doing further expansion.

What helps me in this process is to try to see my life and places I live and visit as a part of a larger whole.  I think back to the movings of my recent ancestors from the Pale of Settlement between Europe and Russia to Europe and Canada, and ultimately the US, mostly during the early 20th century.  Seeing the history of my own relatives in a larger context allows me to feel a part of the big story of human life, change, and development.

From a different perspective, the natural world is a unifying factor for me.  Finding some of the same species of plants in Grenoble and California is satisfying and grounding to me.  The health of an ecosystem and the dynamics of chemistry, biology and ecology working together in different areas around the world is a resting point to come back to and relate oneself to. I feel at home in a forest, wherever it is on the earth.

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