To Entertain, Part One: Taste of Place

("To Entertain" is a brief series on entertaining & hospitality and why it is an especially important practice for twenty-somethings like myself.)

Terroir: a taste of place 

"A good wine smells and even tastes like its terroir, the landscape where it was born. And people are the same; where we come from is always a part of who we are."
-Karen Le Billon
Have you ever had the chance to watch a storm fully brew? Not just the clouds boiling in the sky like a series of pots on a crowded stove, but really steeping itself in barometric heaves producing spectacular grumbles and flashes. Have you ever watched the storm mound and the light change and a field of wheat bend and whisper to itself as thunder drums heavy fingers across the table-land? One of my favorite parts of living in the countryside is this chance to be so intimate with the weather and to learn how my home-place changes under its influence. Yes, it would be delicious to live closer to civilization. My gas expenses would be lower. Fewer people would be scared to drive out to my house after dark for fear of getting lost. But for all these proposed conveniences, I love to live where I do. I have always had an unreasonable attachment to daylight and weather. I never truly feel at home in a place until I've learned its many moods and light. I want to spend several mornings waking up in a space to see how the sun comes in on a cloudless day, on a rainy day, on a neither-here-nor-there day. To truly feel rooted in a place I have to meet it in all the seasons too. I love to look out on our wood-line in October and know, now that we've lived here seven years, which trees turn scarlet first. There is always one bright optimist who blushes ruby red before any of the others have even the barest thought of autumn. I love that solitary maple because I, like it, am prone to rush ahead to all the things I look forward to. There is always, as Pooh-Bear (speaking of honey) puts it, "a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called." I don't disregard this unnamed wonderful moment of anticipation, but like that ruddy maple I get so very excited about possibilities and potential that I can be hard to catch. They don't call people like myself "social butterflies" for nothing. The butterfly part is less descriptive of, I imagine, frailty of purpose as it is of our propensity to flutter ahead of the pack, sipping glibly of every delightful thing life wants to offer and pollinating society behind us with assurance that here are beautiful things in abundance.
Last year I took the butterfly mantra so far that I spent a solid fifty percent of 2016's weekends away from home. I made new friendships, restored old ones, adjusted to new dynamics, experienced so much broadening of my heart and soul. It was a beautiful sojourn out of a desert land. How ready I had been to fly, to beat new wings and dry them as I left memories scattered across the Eastern half of America. I loved my gypsy-year. But strangely enough, the gypsying caused me to crave home like nothing else had. I forgot how golden-hour looks when it settles like a mantle across our freshly-mown lawn. I missed out on dark, honeysuckle-flavored drives down our winding road. I skipped whole weekends of watching the wild roses bloom and the wheat cure and the corn grow topping tall. I missed trying to find a radio station amid the crackling static. I missed my bookshelves and my cast iron skillet. I missed my family. I missed my cat. I missed my coffee shop. I missed star-gazing. I missed my bunched up, ancient pillow and my mattress that squeaks every time I turn over in my sleep. More than all these things, though, I missed a sense of place. I missed belonging. I did not belong at home anymore, because I had made myself a stranger. All rooting of myself had been done abroad. There were pieces of my heart in Florida, in Indiana, in DC, in Atlanta, but when I came home I had my family, one friend...and no one else. This ached. To realize that home is a restless business when I knew that I loved home so very much. Where had I gone wrong? Why didn't it want me? Why did home look at me coldly as if I had become a stranger? My butterfly wings were tired and tattered and only wanted to be nourished by the community I could no longer find. I thought perhaps I never would find it, and then as soft as the rain-hushed evening it came to me:
You have to stay.
It was obvious, once I stood still long enough to listen. Stay, be still, rest, listen, invest, care for. To have roots, one must plant oneself. Travel is a beautiful thing, but when it comes at the expense of home and a sense of place, it is time to set down roots. We humans are not meant to meander about the world without belonging. And to belong is a work we take lightly in a day when we need it most. "I belong," you say, flipping through a phone full of people who, were you to never show up in their Instagram feed again, might never pause to think of you at all. No, belonging means that you are involved in a myriad of analog ways with the people whom you care about. Who picks you up from the airport? Who calls you to come watch a movie on a cozy evening? Who is only a phone-call away from a hard, wonderful conversation conducted over sweating glasses of lemonade? Who can you text to meet you at the beach, with doughnuts, in the next hour or two? Who will ask you to bring tissues and ibuprofen when they're sick? Who reaches out when you didn't show up at Bible study this Tuesday night? Who can you quietly surprise with cheesecake on a random day, just because they're wonderful and you're so grateful for their friendship?

At the 2016 stage of my life, the answer was shockingly empty. Beyond my parents, I couldn't think of a single person - okay, maybe one - who I could call to pick me up from the airport, or hang out on a lazy weekend. The people I would have called all lived a minimum of four hours away. I had butterflied so far afield that I no longer had a sense of community or where I belonged. It was time to plant myself, to fold my butterfly wings, and to learn to drink from the richness surrounding me. It was, in short, time to cherish and tend and wait expectantly for the harvest...I had lost my taste of place and I wanted so badly to have it back. The fullness of life found abroad I knew could, given enough cultivating and patience, be grown at home. It was just a matter of time and tending and staying long enough to see the light play across the land and the friendships spring up under consistent attention and gentle watering.

(watch for Part Two later this week but for now tell me, where is your terroir? What makes you taste of home?)


  1. I love this a lot. I'm a flitterer too....

    1. You know, I really love to meet other flitterers. Flittering can be such a lonely job sometimes, oui?

    2. Yes it can! It's nice to flitter in groups ;)

  2. This rings so true, Rachel. I'm uprooting from the college where I built a community that I didn't know was possible (due to my family's itinerant lifestyle) to start a one-year job in Germany. As excited as I am for the adventure, I'm already dreadfully missing the sense of being rooted in a strong community.

    What makes a place taste like home? My reminders of who I am and who the Lord is - words on the walls, mementos of times when He was faithful - and companionship and shared memories with friends in that place.