Friday, 8 April 2011

Home? Where's home?

As I was researching for a presentation I had to do on bioregionalism (which I will not delve into yet...), I came across the term 'querencia'. It's a spanish term which I cannot get out of my head anymore. Lopez, in an article on the rediscovery of North American culture, describes the term as:

"a place on the ground where one feels secure, a place from which one's strength of character is drawn [...] the idea itself is quite beautiful - a place in which we know exactly who we are. The place from which speak our deepest beliefs."

I'm a romantic at heart and this concept intrigues me. In current English, it could be translated as 'home is where the heart is'. But there's something a lot more powerful about the term - it is the idea that the self and the identity is developed within a physical place, or 'a place on the ground'. The idea that we sustain our essence from the physical world around us may seem farfetched, but everything we obtain is from the physical resources our world provides - from the food you put in your mouth to the skyscrapers we associate with human modernism - so why not our identity as well?

I like the idea that my self has evolved from the world around me. I like the idea of being rooted, which is ironic because I do not consider myself to have a 'home' in the first place. I'm a nomad at heart and I have never really stayed put in one place long enough to dig my feet in; and this is my choice. I have been living in the UK for nearly 14 years now but I chose not to consider myself British, just like I chose not to consider myself French, or American. I have created myself as someone belonging to nowhere and yet everywhere.

So where does 'la querencia' fit into my identity? When I consider the physical locations that I have deep attachments to, they seem quite limited...

 I see the olive trees and the lavender of Provence, which is odd because I have never actually lived there. My family does though and I have spent many great summers in the south of France and my memories merge into a delightful mess of lovely food, sun and querky family gatherings.

And the other picture that comes to mind....

The archetypal endless road. I'm not kidding, these are the only two images that I can conjure up in my head. Although the endless road is quite significant in itself. As mentioned above, I consider myself a bit of a roamer, so the road to nowhere is in itself a reflection of my want to not root myself.

Is it odd that the two physical locations and images I can think of are neither of the many homes that I have lived in? No I wouldn't say so. But what is perhaps odd is that I do actually feel a sense of connection to these images. They model not only the memories that have shaped me, but they reflect the type of person I want to be. Attachment to location is a powerful thing indeed, and it is for that reason that I am intrigued by the concept of 'querencia', not only as a romantic but as an environmentalist.

If people are intrinsically linked to physical location, that creates a strong bond between a person and their environment (emphasis on their environment). As an environmentalist and as a human geographer, this is a concept that I am very interested in because I believe this is what people have lost, and I believe that it is because of this loss of connection that we suffer from the huge range of environmental issues which we are faced with today. 

So where do you think of when you think of home?