There isn’t One Best Place in the world.
That came to me Tuesday as perfectly clear blue skies tempted me outside, despite 19 degree temperatures. My winter brain desperately needed the sunshine.
Besides, I got the impression that Maine was trying very hard to win me over during my last hours.
(Which was a smart play on Maine’s part, since my flight that day was canceled because of mechanical issues, and as I typed this the next day at the airport hotel, I watched in dread as the snow came down; another flight delay.)
I arrived seven days earlier to get to know coastal Maine, where my husband already lives and works, and where we’re planning to move in June.
Everyone has been gushing, “Ooh, Maine! It’s so pretty there!” But in the dead of winter, I don’t believe there’s any place in the northern hemisphere that rates as “pretty.” Everything appears as the equivalent of, “Ugh, morning hair, forgot the makeup, frumpy clothes—just be grateful I showed up today.” Such places shine and glow in the summer, but everything seems to frown and snarl in the winter.
Snow is pretty only for the first hour; after that, misery.
Except for Tuesday when the blue skies waved its big hand at me and said, “Come on! We look decent right now—take a look!” So I bundled up, headed out of the school grounds where my husband lives and works, and soon found myself on an old track deep in the forest.
And this was a true forest, with old growth and ground thick with hundreds of years of plant matter, making parts of it spongy and springy where the ground wasn’t frozen. Despite the cold, a little spring insisted on trickling, and a squirrel next to it gave me the eye, as if wondering why I was there.
And this forest won me over:
I was suddenly in Edge, in the forests above it which I originally patterned after Yellowstone (hence the hot pots and sulfur vents). But these forests were a very close, very nearly perfect, The Next Spot.
You know “The Spots,” right? The places you envision yourself being—the Dream House Spot, the Best Vacation Spot, The Cruise Spot, The Job Spot . . . The Spot.
I have been living in THE Spot for the past eight years, close to family, universities, shopping, and mountains. After having moved a dozen times in our marriage, I was sure we were set to stay.
Only, THE Spot doesn’t seem to be The Final Spot. Maine may not be The Final Spot either. However, for decades my husband has imagined Maine to be THE Spot, so when he was offered a job last year, seemingly out of the blue, he couldn’t resist.
I came for the week, trying to see this as THE Spot, and as I wandered in that forest I realized that there are many Good Spots. Millions of them, actually.
Do you ever wonder why people live in such diverse places, and in such varying ways?
Because there is not One Way To Live.
There is not, nor has there ever been, an Ideal Spot, a Perfect Home Town.
Some folks struggle with the idea that there isn’t a “ONE and ONLY TRUE WAY TO LIVE.” To them, Home Town is THE best Spot in the world; one can ONLY cheer for (fill in the name) university’s football team; vacations MEANS sitting at the beach; and pizza should have ONLY pepperoni and sausage toppings. Don’t even bring up pineapple.
They’re astonished to learn that others don’t want to move to their town, they don’t even follow football, vacations are some place different every year, and they prefer calzones. No, people aren’t ill-informed or plain stupid for not wanting to be exactly like everyone else, living in exactly the same way and place.
Because oh, what problems we’d have if everyone wanted the same things! It’s vital that different places, customs, and notions of “ideal” are wide and varied, in scope and depth, or seven billion of us would all be sitting on top of each other in one tiny Spot! (Which, I’ve learned from an acquaintance, people who live in New York City already think is happening.)
What a marvelous miracle of Intelligent Planning that all of us are different! That means there’s plenty of space and options for everyone.
Some of us live in the same town for generations; others may pick up and settle in another part of the world, never to return. History is full of stories of families sailing far away for a new life, a Different Spot. All of us in America, aside from the Native Americans, originally had family from “Some Other Spot.” It’s fine to find Other Spots. Sometimes God forces us to Another Spot, which looks like a Wretched Spot but later becomes a Most Beloved Spot.
There are millions–even billions–of Good Spots.
My current house hasn’t been my favorite, but it has grown on me—even the too-small kitchen—and I find myself melancholy about listing it for sale soon. I’ve always thought this was the best view I could hope for. As I type I frequently gaze out the windows to These Spots, and sigh in delight.
But Those Spots will soon be memory, replaced by Spots Like These, the new paths I get to explore:
And I had to admit Tuesday, that’s not so bad a Spot.
Some year, it might even become my new Best Spot.
It was that realization that the world was so vast, yet only a tiny fraction of it was populated and fought over, that struck the Shins as so tragic. None of the violence in the world had to happen. There was plenty for everyone. But no one wanted to leave what they knew.
~Book 6, coming Spring 2017