Tuesday, June 21, 2016

This Is Where You Belong by Melody Warnick

I don't know when a nonfiction book has hit so close to home for me. Perhaps it's because I'm a "Mover", one of those people who pack up and move for one reason or another. For me, it has been jobs - in Upper Arlington, Ohio; Huron, Ohio; Port Charlotte, Florida; Lee County, Florida; Glendale, Arizona; Evansville, Indiana. While journalist Melody Warnick had to learn to love Blacksburg, Virginia, I never had a problem falling in love with Arizona. Three and a half years after leaving, I still miss Arizona. Warnick's investigation, her determined "Love Where You Live" experiment, is fascinating in This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live.

Melody Warnick and her family were eager to move to Blacksburg from Austin, Texas, when her husband, an English professor, landed a job at Virginia Tech. Warnick had just turned thirty-six, and the family's average stay in any city was 3.2 years. But, she wasn't immediately drawn to Blacksburg in the Blue Ridge Mountains. As a journalist, she decided to examine the idea of making a city into a place to love. "What if a place becomes the right place only by our choosing to love it?" She made a conscious effort to love Blacksburg, Virginia.

Because she's a journalist, Warnick set about methodically learning to love Blacksburg. She interviewed people, studied why people gravitate to one place or another, how they become involved in a city, what connects them to other people there. Walking the city, learning to find your way around it is an important step, and walkable cities are inviting to outsiders. She has a chapter about buying local, supporting local stores that make the community different from other cities. Meet your neighbors. Learn what is fun to do in your city. Get out into nature. Volunteer in order to feel as if you are helping your community. Eat local food. Get involved in local politics. Create something. The "Stay Loyal" chapter was fascinating, focusing on people who suffered through tragedies in their cities. As Melody Warnick worked through her experiment,  she found herself more attached to Blacksburg.

This Is Where You Belong is a fascinating book. And, maybe I found it so fascinating because it explained a great deal about my own passion for Arizona. That was the one place I lived as an adult that I took most of the steps Warnick mentions, although I'd consider "home" the Phoenix area, not just Glendale. I walked, supported local businesses, volunteered, did so much that was fun, and even found my third place there. Warnick and others refer to it as "place attachment".

It would be interesting to see if Warnick's process works for people, if they can force a place to feel like home. As I said, This Is Where You Belong is a fascinating book. I just don't know when/if I'll find that place again for myself, and, honestly, I'm not willing, right now, to put that kind of effort into it.

Melody Warnick's website is www.melodywarnick.com

This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live by Melody Warnick. Viking. 2016. ISBN 9780525429128 (hardcover), 298p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.


Jeffrey Meyerson said...

Fascinating. I am definitely in the "not move if I can help it" school but it's good that you aren't, considering how often you've had to move. And while I am not a big fan of Arizona, I do like the Glendale area. But the summer? Forget about it. I know "it's a dry heat," but as my sister (who lives in Scottsdale) says, "So's an oven."

Lesa said...

Your sister is right, but I lived in Florida for 18 years before that, so it was a relief to get to Arizona. Jeff, it just means you've found your place. I'm not sure I've ever found mine, although Arizona is the closest. Even so, because I grew up in Ohio, there's something about Ohio's farmland that does mean home.

Beth Hoffman said...

I sure wish you "belonged" in my neighborhood, Lesa! I'd even drive you to work in the snow ... LOL.

Anonymous said...

So it's basically the geographic version of "love the one you're with." Learn to appreciate what you have rather than pining for something else in order to be content with the here and now. Philosophically sound idea, but nope -- I still say London is where I belong, and philosophically sound ideas can stuff it. :-P


Lesa said...

Love that idea, Beth! That would be so nice.

Lesa said...

You're right, Anna. You got it immediately, "love the one you're with". True. She can talk all she wants about learning to love it, but it doesn't overcome "place attachment", feeling that love for a special place. And, yours is definitely London.

Sharon said...

My husband spent 23 year in the Army so we moved many times. I learned to (almost) love every place we lived and although we retired to Central Ohio my heart in still in Cleveland where I was born and that is always home to me.