“If we’d open people up, we’d find landscapes.”     ~ Agnès Varda

I found this provocative line in a book I read recently (You Could Make This Place Beautiful by poet Maggie Smith, whose life has been rooted in Ohio). Seeing this line in her memoir, my mind skipped back to my own origins in Pennsylvania, the thought inviting me to reflect on my early life there.

If you opened me up, you’d find Pennsylvania. I lived there, in the keystone state, during the early part of my life.

Two Longenecker houses sat on Anchor Road. One was the green-shuttered, white frame house, where I lived with my parents, sisters, and brother. The other was a Victorian house surrounded by woods, situated about a half-mile away, down over a steep hill where my Grandma Longenecker lived with her daughter, my Aunt Ruthie. My sisters and I bounced between the two houses back and forth, up the hill and down. And up and down in another way, exploring each house from cellar to attic.  (lines from Mennonite Daughter: The Story of a Plain Girl.   Marian Longenecker Beaman)    xxi






In her memoir of self-discovery, Maggie Smith (not the actress) explores the influence of place in her early life and into adulthood as she grapples with an unwanted divorce and its effect on herself and her children. But she also goes deep into personal emotion, quoting Emily Dickinson in another epigraph, “I am out with lanterns looking for myself.”

“I am out with lanterns looking for myself” was a sentiment Emily Dickinson wrote to a friend, trying to describe how it felt for her, a homebody, to move into a new house. I think of that phrase often, when I’m struggling to feel at home, either in my actual home or just in my skin. The search for my true/new self is an uncomfortable journey, not unlike stumbling through a dark house in the middle of the night. But at least I have a home to stumble through and I’m adding/finding new sources of light, so this wandering won’t last forever.

~  Leah Ellison Bradley


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A different perspective
He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.
Whoever seeks for personal gain shall lose meaning in this life: whoever gives his/her life for a higher cause, one beyond oneself, shall find it. (My paraphrase)


Your Thoughts please . . .

Have you been deeply rooted in a place?  Are you now?

Have you moved recently and find it hard to adjust to a new environment?

What do you think of Emily Dickinson’s line: “I am out with lanterns looking for myself”?  How do you think it relates to the verse from the book of Matthew?