by Gwendolyn C. Natusch
Last night I began to ponder once again the idea of belonging. A long-time theme and contemplation of mine. I’ve come to discover that Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs indicates belonging as one of our basic needs and close in importance to food and shelter.
I know someone from here who was born, raised and has lived more than three quarters of their life in this place. The roots of the place and the roots of their life run deep into the land itself. One might contemplate the land and the person and wonder if they are of the land itself and the land of them. Living so long in one place affords a belonging that I can only contemplate and never experience. There is a longing in me to know this experience. Me having lived in 11 states and two countries have felt more like a gypsy or wanderer collecting places as color patches that live within me, but I never belonged to any of them.
But they walk the land and know it like the back of their hand, like their very skin. They know the sounds of the birds that belong in this place. They know the stillness in the woods and the light that comes through the tree tops of this place. They know the rustling of animals on the forest floor. They know the trees and the trees know them. The Cedar tree recognizes their walk when they arrive as does the White Oak and the Whispering Pines. They know the smell of this natural wooded place and it is home and they belong there like no other place.
They know the rivers and the winds that direct the waters and push the rivers and the waterways this way and that. They have in their mind a slideshow of a hundred sunsets over the bridge and the water at dusk on the rivers here. They know what it feels like with deep familiarity to move over the waters here and feel the sticky air and the moisture heavy on their skin from the summer heat with such familiarity that if they left it behind part of them would ache to return to it. Their discoveries as a child live in this place. Their firsts of everything live here in this place.
Their family history lives in this place. The people here are the fabric of their sense of self, their connectedness and has steered their sense of value in the world. They have loved church and Jesus and those who worship alongside them and those who have prayed for them and that they have prayed for. They have been embraced and encircled in a community that has bolstered, helped to define them and cared for them. And it has been encircled by music and song and melody and an open heart. The heart of a lyrical poet, philosopher, deep thinker.
Their community knows their history, too. They are woven into the fabric of the place, the community and their family. The stories go way back. Stories that are important and vital to remember and to tell in this place. This home of theirs. Stories of family, music, community, time passing, personal and family strengths and accomplishments hang in the air like joy, and hopes, and longings, and grief, and love.
The family gatherings at full tables and babies being brought into such a rich way of being and life directs the months, the years, the decades. There must be a deep fulfillment in this that brings a deep sense of belonging. It is a wonder to me and I ponder the belonging afforded so organically to those who have found themselves forever embraced by the land, history, community, religious fellowship, family and this place of home.
It is remarkable to witness and to have a very small window open for me to peer into their life and the feeling of this place and those who are part of all of it here and where the people and the land and the history are all intertwined in Grace and Embrace. I see the stillness of the woods in this person. It is a wonder to me, because I know this stillness, too, and it has come by such different paths. Their life is such a clear expression of belonging…belonging so deeply.
I think on this with my heart as the gypsy, the second hand rose of sorts…and I think that I have found belonging within me at my center core – for the places have all scattered and changed hands like the seasons. Instead, I feel I belong to the sunsets, the mountains, or these collective experiences in my life that take a broader sense of things within me. I belong to my family which also is scattered like leaves on the wind. All of which have never come together for any length of time into one place. But this has formed who I am and I am glad of it now at my age.
But I have seen through a small open window…graced to me…of a life of belonging that was never questioned but simply grew with them, through them, and lovingly held them as they grew, stretched, dreamed and lived a life of deep rootedness.
I am grateful.