My friend, the brilliant poet Laura Farina, and I had a conversation once about the idea of a ‘cultural homeland’. She said that a cultural homeland is not the place that you were born, or even the place that you may want to live – but it is a place that you return to creatively again and again, if not in person, in your mind. It is a place that sparks your creativity and makes you feel emotionally sated. Your creative homeland opens you up to a bigger life.
There are places that I’ve never been to that I think could easily be my cultural homeland, such as Santa Fe, New Mexico; Savannah, Georgia; and Haida Gwaii, BC.
There are places I’ve visited that inspire me, where I’ve had fun, but they don’t linger much after I leave: Monterey, California; Tofino, BC; and Portland, Oregon. I think they must be someone else’s cultural homeland.
Then there’s New York City, a entity that’s been lurking in my subconscious and has been teaching me about dreaming, channeling itself through books and movies to me since I was a small child. I’ve dreamed of building tree forts in Central Park; hiding out in the New York Public Library, and writing all night in a brick-lined cafe. In the three visits that I’ve had there; I’ve found all of the legends that NYC promises seem to be true. It is a city where skyscrapers and parks co-exist, the rich and poor mingle, where graveyards remain quiet on busy streets, and where the impossible seems to happen on a daily basis – New York is everyone’s cultural homeland. It belongs to all of us. There’s a reason locals call it, so matter-of-factly, ‘The City’. It is a place where history and the present day walk together hand-in-hand.
This year I decided that New Orleans – a city of beauty and resilience; twisted tree roots and broken sidewalks; feather masks and painted houses; loud jazz and light rain; is my current cultural homeland. It is under my skin and I return to it in my thoughts over and over again.
What about you? Where’s your cultural homeland?