Do You Have A Querencia?

When I was eighteen and living in a share house in the city, I was interviewed by a communications student who was putting a short film together on young women. She asked me where I felt the happiest, where was my favourite place to be. The answer was instant and I imagine possibly the most generic of any child who grew up where I did.

“The river. My favourite thing is to be on the river at sunset when the water is like glass, the sky is beautiful and has a pinkish tinge. If you can go for a ski at that time of night it’s really amazing.”

When she’d finished filming she commented on the fact that I hadn’t hesitated at all when she’d asked the question. I was surprised by her observation, of course it was my happiest place, it was home. Perhaps if I were spanish I would have called it my querencia.

After leaving my hometown I returned often. It was a three hour drive and there was always an excuse to get back there. In my mid twenties I went back to live there again full-time. I think after being away I had some sort of romantic notion of what my hometown had to offer. I submersed myself back into country life, and watched people come and go, and eventually I returned to the city again. Although my hometown is no longer home, I’ve never felt like I’ve left permanently. It’s the strangest thing, I don’t belong there, I’m no longer local, but I feel some sort of small ownership. It feels like home.

When I went back to Renmark over the school holidays this year, I went to the local club one afternoon to make a booking for dinner. I had about thirty minutes to spare and children who were busy with Granny, so I took my laptop and sat at a table by the window. It was a beautiful afternoon, cold but sunny. The club looks out over the river, they call it “the club with the million dollar view” and it truly is. I began to write a blog post as I sat there, stopping now and then to watch a pelican glide in on the glassy water, or track the speed of a houseboat that had slowly made its way around the bend of the river towards me. I looked at the monstrous gums and the hanging willows and wondered how I’d taken it all for granted growing up. It was always, there. And then I realized I’d stopped writing completely. I was just staring, crying. Not sobbing, (you know, because that would be kind of weird) but I was teary.

There’s so many memories for me on that river, there’s so many memories at that club, on that street, throughout the entire town. And not all of them are good. Some of them are awful. Some of them make me hate that town, its pettiness, its small town ideals, its double standards for young girls. The fact that I’ll always be someone’s daughter, someone’s sister, someone’s ex girlfriend. There’s a lot about that town that’s wrong – but thankfully, there’s so much about that town that’s beautiful, romantic, and right.

My hometown is no longer my happiest place. It is not my querencia. With age and travel I’ve learned how to store all of my happy places, I now keep them with me. I carry them like hand written love notes stuffed deep into pockets. I dig deep to pull them out deliberately at times, and then surprise myself with accidentally discovery. A lake, a skyline, roman ruins in the desert, a front yard with a view of monkeys in the trees. The idea of home is now a fluid one. It’s no longer the place, it’s the people. My G, my little travellers, my querencia.

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