Wednesday, October 7, 2009

"Geography is destiny"

This quotation was given to me by one of my favorite writing teachers.  I have thought about it a great deal and continue to wrestle with it.  

Perhaps geography is destiny.  I mean, it makes sense. Geography touches every sense.  It influences our food, music, scenery, climate, and physicality.   However, I am reluctant to embrace the idea wholesale because the cliche that we make our own destiny is ingrained so  deeply within me.

I grew up in New England (emphasis on England.)  My grandmother immigrated from the UK when she was four years old.  A short time later, her father drowned, leaving her, her brothers and her mother with the farm here in the States.  Clinging to her traditional British maxims, she managed to keep a stiff upper lip and weave her culture deep into the fabric of our family.

I grew up in a dying factory town.  We lived on a lake, and that, I have no doubt, formed my identity in ways I can never convey.  The pink sunsets over the soft peak of ripples helped me understand my mom’s quiet strength.  I have drawn inspiration from the spectrum of blues ranging from the depths of the lake to the velvet surface of  the sky.

We were in the town because my mother rebelled against her parents, married my father and was threatened with disinheritance.  Yet, even this schism did not divide her from her sense of British propriety and pride .  We were broke but we were never poor. And when I turned 12 years old we came into a great deal of money. I was therefore free to roam from this small rural town.  

My parents wanted me to go to college and I certainly had the desire.  I made up for my lack of looks with my abundance of brains.  The only instructions my parents gave me was that I could go anywhere but California.  

I had no thoughts of going to California, there was every reason not to go- earthquakes, fires, landslides.  No, my mind was full of my dad’s childhood in South Florida and my grandfather’s riverfront house in Virginia.  Princeton, William and Mary, James Madison were on my mind and in that order. 

I had no idea I was destined for California- but the allure of the opposite ocean drew me away from all of my plans.  

I went because I could breath out there.  I could walk on the beach for hours and no one would ask me where I had been.  I could climb up into the mountains and feel the dangerous breath of the sun.  

I went because I wanted to be alone. I wanted to experience a personal gold rush, pursuing my dreams of education and vocation, carving out a life for myself in the face of the Santa Ynez Mountains. 

Instead I fell in love and discovered grace.

In my case, I’d say that even geography could not keep me from my destiny.  I was born 3,000 miles away from the man I came to love more than my own life.  I lived my life, marred by suffering and sin,  an infinite distance from my saving grace but I believe that  my story certainly was mapped out before I was born.  The significance of each longitudinal point and every latitudinal mark was designed before time.  I can only hope to sort out some of the journey as I write.

So I put it to you, “Geography is destiny.”  
Do you agree?

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