No place like home

People live in so many ways, and most of them seem to prefer their own ways to any of the others

WESTMINSTER — It's fun to go to other people's houses, to see how they set themselves up in their homes, the way they arrange their things, and what they organize their lives around.

It's fun to see what's outside their houses, too (cities, towns, isolation) and what the landscape is like (prairies, deserts, oceans, mountains, green or brown or blue).

It's fun to listen to the places where other people live, hearing the sounds from quiet wind or rain or chirping to the hubbub of horns, engines, sirens, to breaking waves and voices of neighbors or people outside on the street. Are dogs barking or coyotes howling?

People live in so many ways, and most of them seem to prefer their own ways to any of the others.

* * *

While traveling, I made myself comfortable in all the situations I found myself. I realized that I could imagine myself in the places of my hosts and see why they cherished their surroundings, that I could picture myself living there and liking that, too.

It made me realize how adjustable most of us are.

My friend living in the high desert in Arizona, who says he hates trees.

My friend on the coast of California, who says she hates snow.

My daughter in downtown San Francisco, who lives in a tiny 400-square-foot condo with her husband but who feels like that's just their bedroom and that the entire city is the rest of their home.

My grandson, who lives in a utilitarian but characterless apartment that fulfills his need to be near the ocean, to feel the sand between his toes, to swim in its vastness.

* * *

Back in Vermont, I settle into my funky dirt-road home among my own maples, thinking about all these recent highlights I'm doing without and about how I am content without them.

I think about one of the spacious houses I've stayed and wonder if I wouldn't like a little more room, but I cheer myself by remembering the coziness of the 400-square-foot condo.

I think about being surrounded by the energy of living in a city and wonder if that kind of living might not be more stimulating. But I pacify myself by relaxing with a good book.

I think about the self-reliant home where I stayed in the desert, an hour's drive from the nearest supermarket or gas station - a private paradise - and am pleased by my own semi-isolation, where civilization is easily within reach.

I think about living next to the beach and listening to the surf as I drift off to sleep, and I am happy to swap that balm for the rustle of the leaves outside my own bedroom window in the summer and the peaceful silence of the snow in winter.

My own home isn't perfect - probably not even perfect for me - but it's the best place I've found yet.

It's good to get away so I can appreciate coming back to it.

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