When I visit places, I often spend time thinking about whether I’d like to live there, whether it would have the things that I want in my life, whether it would inspire me in new ways.

I’ve done this all my life and, in fact, when I’ve spent lengths of time in other places (like in Seattle for Clarion West or in Antigua, Guatemala, to study Spanish), I did try to fit myself into what living there full time would be like.

And I enjoy doing that, even if I’m only in a place for a few days. I always fantasize about what it would be like to live there.

While part of that is simply the joy of figuring out what the local patterns are, I think there’s another reason I do it, a deeper one: I don’t feel rooted anywhere in particular.

Now I am, as most people know, a native Anglo Texan. My people go back around five generations, pretty much as long as there have been Anglo people in the state. (I use Anglo in the usual Texas sense to mean “White, non-Hispanic.”)

I am certainly tied to that culture in many ways. It certainly comes out in my accent, some of my favorite music, some pride in my ancestors, especially the strong women of my family on both sides.

I’m also tied to it – as are many other Texans – by a rejection of some things that are also inherent in it, such as racism and exponential growth.

But while I still feel the ties – positive and negative – and love much of the country there (despite the weather), I don’t feel this deep connection to the land.

Part of that, I suspect, is because the land represented by Texas has only been controlled by Anglo Texans for 200 years.

When you look at the Indigenous populations of the Americas and how long they’ve been here, 200 years is laughable.

I recently saw statements from people who suffered serious damage in the recent fires in the Texas Panhandle about how their ranches had been in their family for generations. I’m pretty sure that’s three generations, maybe four, tops, because the Texas Panhandle was Comanche territory until the 1870s or even later.

That may sound like ancient history, but really, it isn’t that long ago. It’s post-Civil War, which, if you’re paying attention to current politics, really wasn’t that long ago at all.

I’m beginning to think that one reason I’m not rooted anywhere because my connection to the only place I have any real ties to is not very deep and is fraught with contradictions.

I do not think this sense of rootlessness can be resolved by traveling to Ireland or Scotland or England, though most of my ancestors can be traced back to those places. I’ve been to England, and while I found it fascinating (and would have enjoyed living in Cambridge, for example), I did not feel any tie to it at all. In fact, it felt more foreign to me in some ways than Guatemala ever did. (There is substance to the joke about two peoples divided by a common language.)

I was raised with more mythology about Ireland, but I suspect I wouldn’t feel any differently there.

I do know people in the U.S. who are tied not just to this country, or a particular state, but to a particular region. It’s not necessarily their ancestry, either. It does have a lot to do with where they grew up.

And perhaps if I had loved where I grew up more, I might feel the same. But the truth is, I couldn’t wait to get out of my hometown when I left for college and I have never wanted to go back.

I suspect there are places that, even with their flaws, are so inherently magical that you can’t help but want to live there. I didn’t grow up in one of them. I grew up in a narrow-minded small town that became a suburb of Houston, and I was never fond of Houston anyway.

I should point out that I have at least one friend who never wanted to leave Houston, a friend who shares many of my political opinions. So that tells me that some of my thoughts about why I don’t feel rooted may just be stories I tell myself.

Maybe I am just rootless because I like to learn about all the different places, all the different cultures, all the different ways people live, even if I can never be fully part of them.

And maybe it’s because the place where I want to be rooted doesn’t exist as yet. I often say I’m nostalgic for the future. Certainly there’s no past where I’d want to live.

I can conceive of a culture, maybe even a place, where I might feel rooted, but it involves bits and pieces of many places and things. And it needs to include many different kinds of people.

But maybe there’s another reason. Maybe what I’m really rooted to is Earth. I mean, we all are, really. We evolved with this planet. Every being here truly is from Earth. We all belong here.

I wrote a senryu about that the other day:

I’m rooted to Earth,
not just one place or people,
the whole damn planet.

2 thoughts on “Rootless

  1. I’m with you on being rooted to Earth. But as for our childhood, I didn’t feel we grew up in a small town — I felt an outsider both in Friendswood (church) and in Alvin (school). I didn’t feel we were in the suburbs either. I felt we lived in the country. I realize the whole area became a suburb, but that seemed to happen after we left.
    In fact I think my feeling rooted on Earth comes from growing up in what I considered the country.
    So interesting that we have different views. Though of course I never went back either.

    1. I was conflating Friendswood and Alvin for purposes of simplicity, but I agree: I always felt like something of an outsider in both places. I think that outsider feeling belongs in this essay, now that you bring it up, because there’s always a part of me that feels like an outsider wherever I am, and that includes in the place where I’m from.

      And you’re right that the suburbs came somewhat after us, though Friendswood started to become a suburb in the Sixties. I have some fondness for the Friendswood of our young childhood, but none for the suburb it became.

      You do seem to have a sense of being rooted in the country and the outdoors. I feel like I have a love for those places, but not necessarily a sense of being rooted to them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *