August never passes that I don't reflect on the ways that my life has often changed in the eighth month of the year. August is my month for moving house. Twenty years ago this month, I left California for grad school in Nashville, Tennessee. Five years later, in 1994, I left Nashville for a job in rural Nebraska. And yet another August move was made in 2002, when I left Nebraska for a new job in New Jersey.
I generally think of myself as a Californian but I've lived in the West, the South, the Midwest, and the East. And the place I love best is Tennessee. I wouldn't say that I'm a drifter, but I certainly have tried a fair share of places. My son was born in Nebraska but he left at the age of two and isn't really a midwesterner. New Jersey and the East Coast are his home; the place most familiar to him. I am always surprised to realize that JT's most familiar place is not native to me.
I'm a bit of an outsider, I guess, in that I view my new home through the lens of someone who has lived elsewhere for a while. I've always come to see the place I live as beautiful; as places that fed my heart and felt like home. When I think of mountains, I still think of the immense grandeur of the Sierra Nevada range in California; no other mountains can hope to match up. I loved the woods and green hills of Tennessee and the vast sweep of the prairie in Nebraska. In New Jersey I've found satisfaction as well. In the woods where I go walking and on the front porch and in the backyard of my home, I see a restful beauty that is at odds with the stereotypical impressions people have of this state.
I'm not moving this month; I expect that I'll be in New Jersey for some years to come. But I've been thinking often of the ways that home has been a moving target for me. A friend of mine used to say that home is where you keep your clothes, and that's certainly true. But for me it's more than that. Home is the place you choose to make your own, where you find comfort and sustenance for your heart and soul.
And in my case, these days, home is the Garden State, a state with plenty of opportunities for retail therapy, replete with Jersey peaches, the best pizza in the world (and you'll want to call it a pie when you call Giuseppe's for takeout), and a Dunkin' Donuts at every corner.