we belong somewhere

If you had asked me where I wanted to be when I was in my mid-twenties, my answer would’ve been, “Anywhere but here.” It didn’t matter where as long as I was far away from everything I had ever known and anyone whom I had ever loved and still loved.


Venice Beach, Los Angeles (Photo credit: nokxayasane/Instagram)

I wanted to be totally lost and plunged into a different life: A life where I never had to see the people who hurt me, who loved me, who missed me, who disappointed me.

It seemed like the only way to be happy. But then I learned that I needed people just as much as they needed me. I learned that no matter where I went, I couldn’t run from myself nor from my people in my life. I learned eventually that I do belong somewhere, and I didn’t have to search very far to find that place.

Lonely for the Country, Bronwen Wallace

Sometimes these days
you think you are ready
to settle down.

This might be the season for it,
this summer of purple sunsets
when you stand in the streets
watching the sky, until its colour
is a bruised place
inside your chest.

When you think of settling down
you imagine yourself growing comfortable
with the land and remember the sustained faces
of men like your grandfather, the ridges of black veins
that furrowed the backs of their hands as they squared
a country boundary for you, or built once more
old Stu McKenzie’s barn exactly as they’d raised it
60 years ago.
You watch the hands of the women
on market days, piling onions, filling buckets
with tomatoes, their thick, workaday gestures
disclosing at times
what you think you recognize as caring,
even love.

At least that’s how it looks
from the outside and when you think
of settling down, you always think of it
as a place.

It makes the city seem imaginary, somehow.
As you drive through the streets,
you begin to see how the lives there look
as if they had been cut from magazines:
a blond couple carrying a wicker picnic-basket
through the park, a man in faded brown shorts
squatting on his front lawn
fixing a child’s red bike.

You wish you could tell yourself
that this is all too sentimental.
You want to agree with the person
who said, “There’s no salvation
in geography.”

But you can’t
and you’re beginning to suspect
that deep within you,
like a latent gene, is this belief
that we belong somewhere.

What you know
is that once you admit that
it opens in you
a deeper need.
A need like that loneliness
which makes us return again and again
to the places we shared
with those we can no longer love,
empty-hearted, yet expectant,
searching for revelations
in the blank faces of remembered houses.

As wide as bereavement
and dangerous,
it renders us innocent
as mourners at a graveside
who want to believe their loss
has made this holy ground
and wait
for the earth beneath their feet
to console them.

Wallace, Bronwen. “Lonely for the Country.” Common Magic. Canada: Oberon Press, 1985.