Monday, June 30, 2014

Say Where You're From

    “A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image.”   ―     Joan Didion
     
     When getting to know someone, perhaps one of the most seemingly common and irrelevant questions we ask one another is one of the most interesting and important:

"Where ya from?"

     Growing up, I would often find my friends answering the question of origin with a generalization:

"We're from Helena."

No we weren't. We were from Clancy.

      To most Americans, there are probably only 3 or 4 towns in Montana that they have ever heard of. To most Montanans there are probably 50 or so. Now, my friends growing up would tell you that it's just easier to name the closest large town that the questioner will have probably heard of than to elaborate on where Clancy was. But that's garbage.
     There is a world of difference between Helena and Clancy, and to take the easy and geographically apathetic way out forsakes the latter. It doesn't matter if you love or hate your place of origin. If you are from Bonner, Montana, say that. Don't say Missoula.  If you are from Ulm, don't say Great Falls. Use that opportunity to share the characteristics existing in your perception of the place. Be honest and talk a little geography! Tell someone something they don't know. Places only matter if we acknowledge their existence. I know the little places -the specific ones in my life- have mattered deeply to me.

      If you ask me where I am from, I will tell you "Clancy, Montana", and I will tell you about it. I will share with you the things I think you should know - the things that matter to me. From a simple question, we can share a simple fact about ourselves and Montana, and maybe something that matters.

Say where you are from.

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