What Makes a Place a Home?

The colorful aspens demanded the attention of my heavy, tired eyes. The twists, turns, tunnels lead us through and around the mountains of Colorado. Convincing an East Coast bias girl that Colorado isn’t so bad. That it has okay mountains and rivers too, that it too has winds that carry crisp cool air; leaves fall to the ground, wait to be crunched underfoot. Each cool breeze, each goose bump, and each crunch of a leaf reminds me of home; Vermont.

Yesterday I left the hills of Boulder. Left friends and welcoming homes. I hopped in Brotherbear’s car. A familiar Vermont license plate and familiar unsettling noises of the old car welcomed me back to an extension of my Vermont home. I sat in the cool, tearing leather seats of his car and felt my tired body crinkle heavy into the seat and began to feel my heart swell because I started to miss Boulder, the people and place. Late lunches at the local natural foods grocery store and biking around, doing errands, talking to strangers and with old friends; the smallest, most simple things are what made this place feel like a home, that’ll me homesick of a new place. At first Boulder was too West Coast and too big for my liking, and some how it began to feel like an unexpected home. It wasn’t quaint, wasn’t homey, and wasn’t filled with people I know and love. Boulder is not Burlington. But day after day of discovering the city through traveling on my bicycle and exploring new areas due to curiosity and a mainly due to my lack of navigational skills, I realized this city has one-way streets in all the wrong places and construction right where I want to go, but I also began to see it all up close; all the nooks. In the mornings I began to feel the familiar brisk air that crisps on the grass beside the bike path, the architecture of the city began to look familiar and the chaotic and mostly disgruntled relationship between pedestrians and cyclists and cyclists and cars felt like coming home to a loud homemade meal with a lot of loud distant relatives. The streets began to seem smaller, the stores closer together and the faces even familiar. I began to look up. Look up and see not the Green Mountains but instead the jagged edges of the Flat Irons against the hills. I saw Boulder morph into Burlington in someways and also outshine Burlington some ways like the obnoxiously beautiful skies and the mountainous hills.

When I cycled through the streets all the loud noises began to sound like familiar music, like that song you always hum but have no idea how it got stuck in your head. People talking on their cellphones, cars zooming by too closely, the loud music coming from that one car’s open windows and the noise my breathes sinking into the rhythm of it all. It quickly became a home. A new big home. With the Flat Irons to ground me, aspens to paint my landscape and strangers to make my day. This strange city, Boulder, that I was convinced was not only a copy cat of Burlington but was also like Burlington’s weird, distant, hipster cousin that was plainly not as cool as it’s East Coast family, has welcomed me despite my determination to dislike it. It’s streets have the same pavement for my tires to roll over. It began to feel like a home.

Boulder, don’t feel too proud that you won my heart just yet. Proud that you got another East Coaster, because I have had many homes. From growing up and moving my moms things into more then a dozen different houses to moving my own things into one average sized, blue, Patagonia duffle bag and taking that bag to travel to Nepal for a few months, taking that same bag, minus a Sari and some prayer beads, to the South West of the US, to the Eldorado Forest in California now to Colorado. Each one of those places has started off as a foreign, scary place; each place as intimidating as the last. Looking back now I see them all as homes to me. What I’ve discovered makes unfamiliar places with strange new faces and new traditions or habits feel like a home is good people, love and routine. In each of these places I’ve found people who took me into their lives and made their homes my home as well. People who shared smiles and laughs with me, their food, beds, family and most importantly showed me their hearts and love. Having people and love is what makes a community and community is what makes any place, no matter how unfamiliar and how intimidating, feel like a home.

In Boulder I was walking into a place I was convinced would never feel like home but I knew from the moment I arrived at my best friend Will’s house that it’s okay if the city didn’t feel like home because when I walked into his house I felt love. Home. His family showed me unconditional kindness and each other unconditional love and support. Being in a home with three people that care and love for each other so deeply was the first step to making Boulder as a whole feel like a home. That amazing, passionate, inspiring, loving family opened my eyes to see Boulder through a whole new lens. Reminded me to have an open mind. As soon as I felt their comfort and love I began to see things differently. The stream that I cycled past everyday, that’s beauty is pitiful to that of the Huntington River, began to tell me a story. I began to see the thick trunked trees that shaded the stream, began to feel the smooth sand under my feet as the stream flowed over around me, and began to hear the stories of growing up next to that stream. The stories of place began to spill out of soil that use to fuel an apple orchard and that now brought a community together through gardening. I began to see everything around me differently as I cycled through the streets that suddenly had bike lanes down every one-way I needed to go down . I noticed the tree that housed the most brilliant unorganized pile of two by fours that created every little kids dream, a tree house. The pavement that my tires rolled over began to tell me stories. Surrounding me with history.

I began to have a routine. As much of a disorganized, scatter-brained human I am; I love routine. Waking up and biking the same, now familiar, route to a coffee shop who’s chai latte makes me sink into my chair,relax and smell the rusty scent of the connected used book store, sitting and writing on a worn bench with wood floors underneath that creek and bend under each step and ending each day sharing laughs with the tired faces of loved filled people; wake up and do it again. I found myself woven into a pattern of a city and the lives of inspiring people. This weave wrapped me into a place and held me to make it a home.

Boulder I’ll be back. I still have a few weeks before I’m am uprooted again and sent to go find new homes with my bicycle. These past few weeks in Boulder can’t fully be explained but that short amount of time will hold my heart together while it feels like it’s falling apart as I travel alone through new unfamiliar places.

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