Nomadic Local: looking for what makes a place a place (Lyon, France)
The Nomadic Local, new tagline for Vinewoman. Sounds good, but what do I mean by it?.
For a long time I have been fascinated with the notion of what it means to be ‘from’ a place. I am from Las Vegas. I was born and raised there. I am a local. But I am also a Seattle local. And San Diego. And Portland. I am a nomadic local.
So What is this Local You Speak of?
Local is everything that makes a place a place.
Local is the cafe that you adore, the neighborhoods you love to browse, the parks that you spend time in. It is the place where you most feel in your skin, feel at home, feel like you belong.
Local is memories that are specific to that place. Local is the place where you first learned to ride a bike, perhaps; a place where you have old friends; where you know the secrets – good and bad.
Local is all the things you think of when you think of a place, and then some. It is what gets me fired up, interested, involved and wanting to see more, no matter where it is I am.
Everyone’s From Somewhere
I grew up in a place where most everyone I knew was from somewhere else. I listened to stories, wonderful stories, about other places. These were stories that were told with a certain longing, an almost wistful nostalgia.
Without fail, there was always something in that story that had to do with why something was special primarily because it was from a place.
“Oh, yeah. The best strawberries are grown in…..”
“No, the most amazing sunrises I ever saw were in ….”
From the time I was a little girl I was looking for those moments, those things that were special to where I was. The best sugar snap peas grew in my mother’s garden. The best pickles were the ones she made (albeit in July, in Las Vegas!). The best smell in the world is the desert after a rain storm, redolent of yucca and wet earth; and few things beat the dramatic skies of a Las Vegas summer day.
And yet it wasn’t quite enough. For all the wonderful things about where I was, I couldn’t help but wonder what it was like to be a local somewhere else. What did a little girl growing up in Edinburgh love? What was it like to wake up every morning in Moscow, or Shanghai, or Buenos Aires?
But Not All of Us Are From There
So I went in search of that, of what it was like to be from there, rather than from here. Not that I understood that was what I was doing at first.
In the beginning, I put it down to my fascination of roads not traveled. It was the itchiness to turn off that long, dull desert highway and find out just exactly where that unmarked road or dirt lane led as it wandered off towards the hills.
On family trips, and later in my own travels, I would look at the folks who walked those wonderfully exotic streets of other places; like San Francisco and Chico, California; and wonder what it must be like to do that every day. I wanted to know what it was like to live in those houses, to go to that school, to live in that city.
As I got older, I thought a lot about the lottery that is our birth that makes us Chilean or Danish or Filipino. I began to envy people who lived elsewhere, and got to do that just because they were born there. I wondered if they ever wondered about what it was like to be from where I was.
Then I found myself in the Pacific Northwest, the first place I lived that wasn’t where I grew up. I couldn’t believe that I got to do that, to move to this place that I loved. I couldn’t believe that I actually got to live here.
I met people who sang sea shanties professionally. I met folks who’s hobby was Irish step dancing. I met artists and farmers, writers and fisherfolk, musicians and cheese mongers. People who were passionate about here and were thrilled that they got to live here, too.
When I finally stepped off the continent; well, I’m not sure what I expected to find, but what I found was more of the same. I found more of the passion, more people who just loved where they lived and couldn’t believe that they actually got to live where they lived.
Paris was less about the Eiffel Tower – which, make not mistake, is pretty spectacular – and more about the music students busking in the Metro. It was less about the paintings in the Louvre, and more about the opera singer practicing in the archway near the entrance. Paris and music will always be connected in my mind.
London was Big Ben, but it was also the guard at the Tower of London whose love of history made the place come alive. Sarajevo was, well, gosh – so many things from the lovely man in the rug shop who talked about his home in Banja Luka, to the (oh sweet memories) orohavaca made by the hotel manager’s uncle.
Becoming a Nomadic Local
Fisherman’s Memorial, Seattle. I get misty eyed every time I visit it.
In nearly every place I’ve been, I’ve been driven to find the meaning of local for that place. Rick Steves talks about being a ‘temporary local’ and I like that description. I means spending enough time in a place to have a sense of it.
Don’t get me wrong, a lifetime probably isn’t long enough for some places, and others a day is more than enough. Sometimes you discover the most amazing local things in places you would never think of them.
I would never have expected to find myself transfixed by a market day in a small town in France, or charmed by an Independence Day Parade – in Bruges, Belgium. I never thought I would stand speechless before a great work of art that I had seen a thousand pictures of, but never realized the scale or the detail, like I did when I came face to face with Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch” in Amsterdam.
I never would have believed that a farmer’s market in Beaverton, Oregon would be a feast for the senses, or that a humble Fisherman’s memorial on a working waterfront in Seattle could move me to tears every single time I see it. I never expected to have one of the best days ever riding a giant Ferris Wheel with my nephews in Las Vegas.
All of that, all of those experiences? They are part and parcel of being local, even for a short period of time, even for a day.
So that is what Vinewoman is all about now. It is about the local; where I’ve found it, how to go about discovering it, and hearing from you about your own local passions and where you found them.