Place Sunday, February 6, 2005
I am not a fraud. This has been on my mind all week. I am not insincere. I was looking at things as if Nevada City were my boyfriend. It is not my nature to get myself into a relationship in order to poke around a bit just to have fun, as a diversion (much to some of my friend’s chagrin), then leave. If I decide I’m in a relationship, I am committed to it. I try to make it work until there is no hope left – and apparently that might not even be enough to stop me.
If I applied that thinking to living in Nevada City, then I have no respect for myself because I am not necessarily committed for the long haul. I want to feed my personal wanderlust guiltless reassurances that picking up and going is always an option. If I planted myself here firmly a restlessness would creep in, slowly, but as persistently annoying as the mildew blossoming on my wall. Following restlessness comes resentment. I know this from experience. Resentment is something I want to avoid. What accompanies resentment is ugly and damaging.
And therein, lies my conflict. How can I say I love a place, how can I honestly get to know it when I always want to have a foot planted by the door?
I love this place. I love the people I have met here. I love the foothills and the South Yuba. I feel more at home here than anywhere else I have ever lived. I feel more welcomed, accepted and nurtured. I feel wanted. But I inevitably wander.
Yesterday I spent the day in Coloma. I hadn’t seen many of those people in a long time. It felt so good to be back. I felt like I was home finally. But I wasn’t feeling like I wasn’t at home when I was in Nevada City. I was welcome back into that river community like the wandering child who finally wandered back. I was even fed Honey Comb cereal when I got there.
It’s perfectly fine that I have a different community in a different place on a different river than Nevada City. Nobody would accuse me of infidelity. That evening I came back and went to a SYRCL (South Yuba Citizen's League) event and hung out with Nevada City people. I wasn’t betraying those I left behind in Coloma who wanted me to stay for dinner and music.
I can expand my stomping ground outside of Nevada City to the foothills. The California foothills are my home and everyone who I’m connected to here is my community. Yesterday I ran into some paddling friends from Reno too. Being connected to them is not a slap in the face to my California friends.
Every year I’ve been traveling to Central America. I’ve got a small community of people in a gorgeous exotic place that I have developed a deep connection to. I look forward to going back there, but I look forward to coming back here when I am there. No harm done. I love it there, but that love makes me love my hills and my community here even more. It also gives me a different perspective that I can bring home with me.
This is all perfectly obvious. A relationship with a place is not equal to my definition of a relationship to a person. But why do I still feel uneasy about Nevada City. Why did I feel like a foreign visitor last week at that swanky birthday party, an anthropologist studying something I don’t belong to? Why am I insisting on viewing myself as separate?
Fear maybe? Connection gives me responsibility. My paddling community expects me to move around. It’s a given within the community, the always shifting, changing community. It’s so mutable, yet its mutability is something of the glue. I can walk through the little subcommunities of paddlers with ease and acceptance. I am firmly planted within this river community, I’m an integral part of it. I can travel all the way to a different continent and be taken in like family because I’m a paddler. I do the same for others. We’re all bound and connected by The River. The community is that inclusive, yet so far-reaching. I feel comfortable with that expansiveness.
Nevada City is tight-knit. It’s solid. It exists here and only here. It’s a unique and strong personality that exerts itself with confidence here, in this specific place, this tiny dot on a map. That’s one of the things that drew me here. I’ve never had a community like this, so solid and fixed and so connected to this river. It’s new and exhilarating. But with it comes things that make me feel very uneasy. The glue here seems to be the strong involvement within this specific community located on this specific small place on our planet. A common accepted notion is that everyone here knows what’s going on with everyone else and how that relates to the place. It provided quite the comforting safety blanket when I needed help. They know, and they are there to help. But it makes me feel uncomfortable when I need privacy or space. I’ve stepped into this living organism of Nevada City and it’s like I’m a cell that affects and is affected by all the other surrounding cells that make this place what it is. There’s a kind of cellular memory. If I meet someone new to me, they often know something of me already. So many times I have been told that someone or another knows who I am, but I don’t necessarily know who they are. People I have just met ask me questions as if they already know me. It’s unnerving because there is no blank slate anymore. And so much of this is then extended into a relationship to Nevada City as ‘place.’ The location, environment and the Yuba River are so much a part of the identity of Nevada City. Community and place exist right here, together, inseparable.
I’m so fascinated by this. The more I explore the community here, the more they give to me, the more tangled within it I feel I become. I give back. I get more entangled. I love it and I fear it. When I left San Francisco, I felt like I broke up with the place - that I loved it but we didn’t work well together. But it and I were still separate. It hurt to leave, but I took all of myself with me. If/when I leave here I fear it’s going to be more than a separation. It’s going to be more like an amputation.
I feel a responsibility to this place. I feel it belongs to me and I belong to it. I’m not just using it. I have a responsibility to know it and what it is as best I possibly can. To not do that would be a betrayal to it. But to do it has huge consequences. I suppose I have already accepted that through my actions and involvement. I can’t view myself as separate anymore. I am thrilled and I am scared.