I have left pieces of my soul places. Some of them are geographical places: the mountains of Appalachia, Sarasota Bay. Some of them are more tied to the people who live there: rural Florida, this university town I live in. But in all of them I have left a piece of my soul. The places take good care of my soul and I am even privileged to visit the places and the pieces of my soul on occasion.
I have left a piece of my soul in East Tennessee. The mountains there calm me, restore me, remind me of how small I am and how big my God is. My college years were nestled within these mountains and this Florida girl never ceased to be amazed by the landscape there. And the snow! How magical. My favorite was the flurries: the snowflakes appeared, floated around for a bit, and then disappeared. A glorious sight to behold. East Tennessee is home to some of my dearest friends and dearest memories. I grew up visiting there during the summer time, but it became an adopted home for me in college. I miss it dearly, both the landscape and the people. I carry pieces of it with me: dried leaves from autumn, photographs of those I love, a small charm on a necklace.
I have left a piece of my soul in Florida, albeit begrudgingly. Don’t get me wrong: I love my family dearly and they are all from Florida. It’s the geography I don’t like: the flat land, the hot summers, the lack of seasons, the beach (don’t even get me started on the beach). And even still, I have left a piece of my soul there. A bit of it nestled in Sarasota Bay, at Siesta Key. A bit in rural North Florida, where Christmases were actually cooler than the rest of the year and there was a fire in the fireplace. Even a bit in Orlando, in a kingdom full of magic and wonder. When I go back to those place, I breath a sigh of relief. The people and the places there are my home.
I have left a piece of my soul in London. I’ve only been there for a grand total of 3 months, but I loved every minute of it. The history, the culture, the art, the beauty, the accents, the tea. What’s not to love? If I had to exactly pin-point my soul there, I would probably say it rests in the Victoria and Albert Museum. A collection of art, beauty, craftsmanship. A place I spent hours wandering and wondering with my mouth wide open. I even love the public transportation in London. That city taught me that I was capable of so much more than I thought. It also taught me that it was possible to fall in love, ever so slowly, across oceans. But that is another story for another time.
I have left a piece of my soul here, in this Texas town. Texas was never on my radar, never in my well-thought out plan. But then again, I wasn’t exactly looking to get married, especially to a farm boy who wanted to be a pastor. And yet, this town has stolen a bit of my soul. The town itself is much maligned, but truly a lovely place to live. And the people. The people here have taught me what community is and what it isn’t. They have taught me what it means to belong, even if a ragtag bunch of seminary students, graduate students, and whoever else comes our way doesn’t look like the perfect community. It is flat, hot, season-less, and far, far away from most of the other pieces of my soul. But it has grown on me and I will certainly leave a bit of my soul here.
I have left a piece of my soul in Virginia. Tucked in the foothills I call mountains, on a farm that has taught me much and will have much more to teach me. I didn’t realize I had room in my life for more family until I got married. All of a sudden my family got even bigger and I can’t imagine it any other way. The land is beautiful: reminiscent of my dear Appalachia with its mountains, seasons, and gorgeous landscape. It also holds my dear new family: parents, siblings, grandparents, nieces, extended family. I love learning their history as well as the history of the land. Virginia certainly has a piece of me now.
These places, these people, these memories are how I conceive of home. When I arrive there after a long journey, I can breath of sigh of relief. I know I am understood, I am loved, I am home here. It is part of the nature of place that in order to feel at home in one, I also miss another. While I call this college town home, I desperately miss my mountains in Tennessee. Whenever I travel back East, I am reminded of how much Texas is home. It has been four years since I have traveled across the pond and I still miss it quite a lot.
But even still: how blessed am I to have so many homes! How marvelous that I can feel at home in so many places, that my soul has some many different resting places. This is why I can wear a Tennessee charm around my neck, cheer my heart out for Florida State University, feel comfortable in the Texas heat, swoon a bit over an English accent, and even long for a home in Virginia I have not yet had. Because bits of my soul have been scattered about. And wherever my soul is, I feel at home.