It’s a snowy morning in Pullman WA, I’m bringing my daughter to tour Washington State (one of the colleges that she wants to apply to). It’s 4 am (jet lag takes its toll) and I’m typing from the lobby of the Holiday Inn. The first snow of the season has dusted the Palouse hills, wet and shining across the blacktop. The local rental agency gave me a Hummer, their only car, and I’m looking at an e-mail from a friend asking if I can join her in Israel for a week.
I’ve found that life is filled with juxtapositions like this. On the one hand, I’ve gone ‘global’: pretty comfortable everywhere, moving easily between cultures. I’ve almost mastered the art of making the mental shifts between driving left or right, speaking Dutch or English, waking to windy rain in pancake-flat Holland or quiet snow in the Colorado mountains.
But I perform the trick differently than I expected. There’s no heightened sense of center or self, nor a perspective that transcends culture. Rather, I simply lose my sense of being rooted in place embrace life in a very immediate way. Wherever I am, I set aside where I was yesterday or will be tomorrow,. Worryingly, I also set aside where I came from years ago, or hope to be some day.
That feels rootless, like I’ve over-adapted in a way that loses life’s temporal connections. I enjoy the lateral mash-ups of places and people, learning from the contrasts and differences. The experience of filling the Hummer with $3.40 gas alongside the Corsa and $10 gas in Europe invites reflection. But, without sense of place, it’s superficial: the judgemental aspect never surfaces. Only the practical one.