I grew up in Ohio, in an old farmhouse set on the edge of 600 acres of undeveloped parkland. There were fields of grass and groves of old-growth trees, frog-filled ponds, and a stream that ran through a forest of golden-green foliage. My own yard held a small grove of birch trees, a 100-foot oak tree, a pink-flowering crabapple that would take your breath away in the springtime, and a huge, sun-filled maple tree that turned into a bright golden miracle when the leaves turned in the fall. Not to mention the fruit trees, raspberry bushes, and the garden full of flowers and vegetables. It was, in many ways, a paradise. And it was all mine—mine to explore, smell, taste—my own private world of perfect beauty.
When I grew up, I moved to the city. I craved the adventure and challenge of a new environment. I was done with trees and gardens. I wanted museums, high-class restaurants, the symphony. I traded in the beauty of nature for the beautiful creations of men. And, for the most part, I have truly enjoyed it.
But still, there has always been a longing to return to that pristine natural environment that I grew up in. Though I have been delighted by the many works of art that I’ve gotten to see around the world, my favorite pieces are still always the landscapes, especially the works of the Hudson River School and of Louis Comfort Tiffany—artists who were inspired by the American Eastern Woodlands and, as a result, create scenes that remind me strongly of “home.” And while I enjoy going to all kinds of concerts, my favorites are the performances of classical works like Borodin’s “In the Steppes of Central Asia” and Copland’s “Appalachian Spring”—compositions that conjure up the majesty and indescribable beauty of nature.
When I walk outside my front door into the bustle and energy of the city, there is an exhilaration that takes place—an excitement to see what new experience the metropolis will bring me today. But underneath that is also a longing, an unfulfilled desire to return to the solitary scenes of beauty I knew as a child. I don’t think I can ever belong fully to one world or the other—I’ve become too much of a “city kid” to ever leave it entirely. Still, I know that as long as I’m away from nature I will always feel a bit like an exile—like my true home is somewhere else. But then, maybe deep inside we all feel like that to some extent, no matter where we live or where we’ve come from.
Do you ever feel like you’re misplaced somehow, an exile in your own life? Why do you think that is? What is this insatiable desire in us that never quite feels settled, that never quite feels at rest? Is there a solution, or are we to be stuck with this perpetual sense of “in-between,” this perpetual longing for “home”?