Is Home Where You Were Born?

As I See It

As you drive down the long country road, across the red Pennsylvania Dutch covered bridge, into a simple world long past… of historic three-story high masonry homes…

constructed, stone by field stone, all the way up to the rafters….

Small Plebjus Blue, I think

You start thinking of what ‘home’ really means. As of late, surrounded by the nostalgia, I myself started to think.

I think of what was familiar, what was uncomplicated, and what shaped identity. The wildflowers in the fields, the butterflies flying free, the streams running clean. Finding oneself in amongst all that is simple and making sense of all that is complex.

Remembering picking daisies and loving the color yellow. I think of the lush green expanse as far as young eyes could see. Gazing at rolling mountains, walking through dappled forests, and calling to the horses grazing in the pastures.

Tiny ponies with really long silky tails mowing the green grass.

Seeing life pass by without a care.

This is where I grew up during my teens. A property with rolling countryside, a long tree-lined drive, and an old 19th century stone home.

This was not the home my parents lived in (this is the first home as you enter the property), but there were three more very similar up the half mile long plus, private drive. I did not have enough nerve to go into the estate because the road was only wide enough for one car to pass. It would have been very awkward, since the drive is posted to avoid just this occurrence. So I photographed the home at the entrance to the estate.

The hills of Pennsylvania, surrounding country hamlets and bustling towns are literally breathtaking. Places where a cell phone might not connect to the world beyond, even in our tech savvy world today.

Up on Hawk Mountain, Kempton, PA, looking out over the valleys, hillside farms and hamlets of surrounding counties in the far off distance. Can you not feel the bliss in Pennsylvania?

There are places where a trail ride by horse could last all day and you had to be prepared for the long excursion, saddlebag packed with rain gear just in case. I did this quite often, lunch packed and compass in hand. So many trails, you had to have a good sense of direction. Horses always don’t know the way home, much to popular belief!

Where if you kept riding you would be in the next county over. But down in the valley, the farms are plentiful, and the cows content.

I smell both the fresh air after a gentle spring rain and the cows down the road on a hot summer’s day.  Oh, the cow smell, one pungent whiff you could hardly forget.

The sweet taste of tiny wild strawberries, you know, the ones that you must eat by the hundreds, and the fragrant smell of Honeysuckle, the nectar we would suck right from the flower; stuff of every kid’s delightful summer.

I remember my favorite soft drink was Mountain Dew and my horse liked it too. Kinda reminds me of a special companion, one I think of often. Horses do that to you.

I recollect the farms that were scattered all around, planted with wheat and corn. We would ride bareback through the wheat fields brushing our hands over the golden flowers of the grain forming stalks. The horses grabbing huge mouthfuls as we go. It was a simple pleasure to man and beast alike.

I recall the new white snow falls around Christmas and the anxious egg hunts at Easter. Holidays were special and made just for kids.

Is this just a product of getting older, or is it just something that happens because one is separated by long distance and time? Is home now defined by relationships rather than place?

I appreciated all the simple things, and how I learned to appreciate nature. To see it with the eye of an artist and the heart of romanticist.  To find no words to describe, but see in a way that sees beyond.

Sure this can be done anywhere, but you remember where you learned it first. I was very surprised at all the photos I did not take. I think it was because I was so engrossed in taking it all in, immersing myself in the experience. Thinking back, reminiscing and remembering. Forgetting to grab the moment in time. Maybe because the memory was so strongly imprinted in my mind. The physical photo seemed less a thing of want and need.

Looking at the horse stable and across the field where I lived with my parents, the barns and the other three property houses in the distance, down the very long tree-lined, private drive.

The main thought of home is where you live at the moment. But I think it is far more than that. Home is family and friends – a place that becomes something that you create. It is memories and it is the future.

It is finding your way where ever you may go.

Life was simple and pure. Interesting and insightful.

Seems whoever you ask around the world, the feeling of home is pretty similar. Home is more than just a place to hang the proverbial hat and to catch some shuteye, it is a place of profound meaning. We take pride in, nurture and enjoy the very being of home. I think Dorothy nailed it. There is no place like home, and not just the roof, walls, and windows either.

Next for Sunday… the house and garden I owned before moving to New York. The garden is not as I left it either. Bah humbug.

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
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42 Responses to Is Home Where You Were Born?

  1. Brian Comeau says:

    Isn’t home where the heart is? 🙂

  2. What a wonderful set of photos, and an even more beautiful feeling I have after reading this!

    Since you asked, here is my idea of home. I am an Army kid, born in Germany while my father was stationed there in the late 1950s. Our family moved every 2 or 3 years until I married at age 20. It was only then that I had the priviledge of putting down real roots and becoming a part of a physical place. Before then, home was where my family was, and I am still very close with my parents and my brother and sister because of it. After living away from our extended family for our whole lives, we have all now made our homes withing 45 minutes of each other. We cannot bear to be farther apart. Our children are close with their grandparents (something I never experienced because of the distance), they know their cousins, and we all have found peace.

    • I had a feeling some would note how family is home. And also, that some would be from many places. This is a wonderful story you presented with how your family all lives so close to one another now and the importance of this. I think that is rare in this day and age, and more should be invested in family like you have grown to be. Setting roots is so key too.

      I went down to see family, at least the few I have left. And my cousin is arranging a family reunion, the first ever from my father’s side. It really got me thinking, that being the youngest, that many might not be with us much longer. My uncle is 93 and is making the trip from Arizona for this.

  3. What a beautifully written post, Donna. You have really caught the essence of home—the sights, the sounds, the smells, the feelings—you got it just right.

    • I think all the senses come into play when you get such a strong feeling of place. I have never formed any meaningful connection to NYS and that is why to me, relationship and place seem to be different.

  4. It is an interesting question. I always dread the question “Where are you from?” because I never know how to answer. I have lived in 8 States and 5 countries. What do you answer…where you were born, where you lived the longest, where is home now?…Your photos really reflect an idyllic place to experience life; especially the difficult teenage years. I think it took courage to go back since places that hold such wonderful memories usually have changed and not often for the better and can often be disappointing. I love the rolling hills and farm land. The shot from the mountain is fantastic. My son likes your cow photos…he loves cows (even has a “cow” themed room with cow patterned sheets).

    • My gosh you have been so many places. This would be a hard question for you. I know when I am asked, I always say originally from Pennsylvania, kinda like it is a qualifier. I was just asked yesterday as a matter of fact. The woman at the bank thought my accent was quite different than here. After so many years, you think the accent would be gone. Where I am from did change so much. Development was rampant in this area (near where my grandfather’s home was) and so much was different. But, in many places (like where my parents lived), much was exactly the same.

      Tell your son, I love cows too. I collect cows. Well, objects in the shape of cows anyway.

  5. Greg says:

    I, like Karen dread the where are you from question. Thank you fro addressing an answer to that question.

  6. What a beautiful tour. Sweet memories of “home” are wonderful even if “home” changes through life.

  7. Jennifer says:

    Hi Donna, I don’t get home to Nova Scotia very often, maybe once every four or five years. A visit is always filled with a mix of emotions. Sometimes it feels as if everything has changed and yet everything is exactly the same.

    • But it is still nice to go home, even with the change. I was not back since my mother passed on 2009, and I found that many new roads were built. My navigation in my Jeep needed updating because it kept losing where it was. But I did find my way around, and it is amazing how much comes back to you.

  8. Victor Ho says:

    As Dorothy said, ‘Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.” The answer to your question is that some of us are far from home. With only one life, it’s a hard decision as to whether you experience new or live with the familiar. It’s why some people bungie, sky dive, and scuba. And some people never do. I choose to push the limits. Hey, who knows?

    • When Dorothy said that, was it not right when she landed? I think she was amazed and bewildered but also up for the adventure. Heck, she skipped along the yellow brick road, singing happily. And she tried many new things, and learned a lot from them. One thing, she never did waver from returning home.

  9. Marguerite says:

    Like Karen and Greg the ‘where are you from’ question is always a bit awkward for me. I generally tend to name the province but if it goes further it gets lots more complicated as I moved around that province several times. Now I live on the opposite side of the country and your reminiscing about home reminded me of what visits back west are like. A lot of childhood memories and feelings creep in making me nostalgic but overall I’m glad with the place I chose to be home.

    • Choosing where to live is not always an option. I think if I would choose, it may actually be in a far off country, like New Zealand, but I wonder how long it would be before the novelty wore off and the longing for ‘home’ crept in. Also, moving back to PA, I wonder if I would feel as close to it as when far away. You don’t know what you have until its gone! A cliche, but true.

  10. Rose says:

    Such a beautiful, poignant post, Donna! I grew up in the country, too, and those early days left such an impact on me. As a teenager, I didn’t appreciate all the flat land with acres and acres of corn and soybean fields, and wanted to live in the “Big City” when I was an adult. But I realize now those early years of the enjoying nature and the simple things in life helped to shape who I am today. I’m definitely not a city girl:) Such a beautiful place you grew up!

    • What was nice about PA, was both the farm land and the mountains. I guess they are more called hills, but I did ski in PA. I too found, now living in a city, that I miss all the quiet and calm found in the country. That is why I so love going to the farm up here. The lake, the fields, the animals, reminds me of ‘home’.

  11. I have lived in Buffalo, NY, or its suburbs my entire life. I like it here, and most of my family is still here. I like the seasons and the friendly community. Donna, I know what you mean about not taking photos so you could be in the moment. I don’t like taking pictures at parties because recording the event takes me out of the event.

    • For seasons and friendly community, I think where I am from originally and now are really similar. It is just the landscape that varies greatly. Buffalo is a fine city and was a great city at one time. I love the architecture, art community and waterfront quite a bit.

  12. tina@inthegarden says:

    What a lovely place to grow up in and make special memories. Home for sure.

  13. For me a house is not a is the people, the feeling, the memories…though Philly is where I was born we moved when I was 5…we visited often but home was where I moved in Northern IN. That was where I felt the essence of home…now this house where I live has that feeling of home…I pass our old house in NY where we moved for my 6-12th grade yrs and I am sad to see it in the shape it is in…and I remember again…a house is not a home! I have the outline of a children’s story I would like to finish someday about this very topic…lovely post Donna

  14. Donna says:

    What a beautiful post! Even though I was born and raised in the city in which I still reside (Huntsville, Alabama), for me, home is the city where my parents were raised and where my grandparents lived their entire lives, which is about 70 miles west of here in Florence, AL. My favorite memories are the weeks I spent at my grandparents homes (both sets), spending countless hours on the porch with family and friends. Maybe it is because it is a small town, and life seemed to move at a slower pace. My parents and I don’t really have any family left over there anymore, yet we are always longing to go back and visit our roots. Maybe my husband and I will retire there someday–who knows!

  15. You’re so right–it IS breathtaking! I sort of feel like every place that touches our hearts–for whatever reason–can be called “home” for a certain portion of our lives. Home, to me, is where you are surrounded by people you love and who lover you. And where you can physically feel your blood pressure beating with positive excitement or relaxing into a comfortable rhythm. Stunning photos, and they make me want to take another trip to Pennsylvania.

    • I too mentioned that relationships are where the essence of ‘home’ lies. But the act of making ‘home’ is more a feeling I think than the action, and you need those that you love in a team effort to make it successful. Some people just exist in their homes, taking no joy, no pride and no investment. So the essence of ‘home’ is just a hollow shell. I am sad for these individuals. You see this so often in cities. You can readily tell when a home is loved, because love usually exists on the inside too.

  16. jakesprinter says:

    Great work my friend i really love it .so stunning all of it 🙂

  17. Alistair says:

    Ah Donna, I enjoyed your nostalgic trip down memory lane, I think perhaps you took us there a while back. I have also been afflicted with similar thoughts of the past only to be told, look to the future. Well as far as I am concerned the future can take care of itself, the past lives with me forever. Mind you I was brought up in a very poor neighbourhood and my thoughts are more at where my grandparents lived, and my obsession with music of the late 50s and 60s. If you pop over my way, I have been asking a few of my friends whom I can trust, is my blog with its new theme which I am quite fond of very slow to open. I can trust your opinion and would appreciate it very much.

    • I have lived in 8 different homes in PA, and the post, Where I am From, was at a town home near a local scenic Park. I could not walk there, like I can do at the Falls, but it was a bike ride away. Thanks for your thoughts on home. It is always fun to see how others really feel about certain topics. I will check on your blog load times too.

  18. meredehuit says:

    This is a lovely thought provoking post. For me, home is where my heart is, and my heart is where I garden. I must admit that family is most important, but most of mine are now making homes of their own, growing their own gardens and making grand-babies for me to love. As I look back at the houses I have lived in, they are most defined by the gardens in which we cared for, the memories of our children working side by side to make our small portion of earth beautiful. The sadness of leaving that garden and home only to have the blessing to build a new one in a new place that we love even more. Donna, I’ve missed you, my friend. So nice to have a little time to visit blogs again. Your post is sweet tonic for the soul.

    • Thank you for you kind words, Carolyn. Also for your thoughts on family, home and gardens. Memories are fixed in many of the places we inhabit, along with that which we leave behind for others.

  19. Carolyn says:

    Hmm…that would be “Carolyn” 🙂

  20. Grace says:

    Gorgeous pictures. I love them all but that last one with the birds on the fence is so cool. Your prose is equally gorgeous. I think home is more about our memories and emotions that surround the location. Just as certain places evoke pleasant memories, other places evoke negative ones. It’s not really the place, but what happened (or didn’t happen) there. I’ve got a friend who lives near the home I used to live in and it’s difficult to go see her. That area reminds me of a time that was very painful to me. Great post!

    • Thank you for stopping in Grace. Having negative association with a place is certainly not a good thing. But when it is ‘home’, the good comes with the bad. Memories are sometimes skewed, where we invent memories of place not necessarily based o reality. Questions architects ask sometimes are about good memories. It helps shape design.

  21. You are certainly waxing nostalgic with this post. I have bits and pieces of ‘home’ all over. Moving a lot as a child and then likewise as an adult, I have no real solid roots. Love the field stone house, reminds me of Central PA. The view of the fields from above, reminds me of mid-state NY, Hudson River area. We were in VA this past weekend, next door to our old house. Oh my, what a mess. I had to keep reminding myself it was no longer my garden, no longer my house.

  22. Beautifully written and beautifully photographed, Donna. It brought back so many memories. I grew up in a small town where you could walk or bike-ride to everything, but just beyond the next street were hills and forrests–countryside–and the Ohio River was just in the other direction.. We had the best of both worlds. We enjoyed the outdoors so much more then.

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