I am drawn to this notion, this beautiful belief that there is a place where you are most rooted to your true self. The difficulty for me, without serious tear-me-down-to-my-base-elements introspection*, is pinpointing a single location. My strengths are varied, and so are my touchstones.
As a girl in Wisconsin, it was the little patch of woods next to my house. I knew each stone. I knew the sweet scent of the meadow grass, freshly cut and drying in the sun. I knew every tree, and I would talk to them for hours. That was where I lived in imagination, walked in story, pretending to be a sword-wielding princess/adventurer/librarian.
It was, too, Clark’s Farm. There I strode happily and fearlessly (tiny as I was back in the day) amid ramshackle barns, shady workers, and a paddock full of moderately trained horses, and rode with nothing more than a halter and lead line on the trails and snowmobile tracks.
Later, in early adulthood, it was on top of a mountain**, sitting in the sun and looking out over the wooded valley with a snack in my backpack and a notebook and pen in hand. Shortly after, it was on stage in any number of theatres: when I was in that space, I was most me, even as I was working to inhabit someone else. I’ve since found other mountains, other woods, and spending time there remains as vital to me as breathing. A different overlook is my go-to in savasana, though in the real world a ukulele has joined my snack and writing implements. My gym is decidedly a nexus of strength and personal empowerment. There, I am strong. I am knowledgeable. I am encouraging and (she demurred) some small manner of inspirational.
In my late twenties, it was 35 acres in the Hudson Valley: an erstwhile botanical garden turned portal to the another place and time (see my letter G blog post). My connection to the New York Renaissance Faire was forged through a decade of literal blood, sweat and tears. Ten years worth of training in various disciplines: improvisational acting, singing, dancing, sword fighting, jousting. It was there I met my love, there I made incredible friendships, there I got to be a hero. I got to live my stories, not just imagine them.
People and places change, though; the energies ebb and flow. I left NYRF in an abysmal ebb, figuring I was done forever. But here’s the thing about querencia: there’s a much more visceral meaning, borne of the brutality of bullfighting. “It is believed that in the midst of a fight, a bull can find his own area of safety in the arena. There he can reclaim his strength and power. This place and inner state are called his querencia. As long as the bull remains enraged and reactive, the matador is in charge. Yet when he finds querencia, he gathers his strength and loses his fear. From the matador’s perspective, at this point, the bull is truly dangerous, for he has tapped into his power.” ~Tara Brach, Ph.D
You can’t go home again… except for when you can. Seven seasons after I’d left, I came back once more. The moment I began rehearsals in NYC, I sensed things might be all right. The moment I set foot on the grounds, I knew I was home once more. No longer Maid Marian, rather Jenny Wren. Still a hero. Still a fighter. Still a singer, a dancer, a friend. The best me I’ll ever be, in the heart of the truest magic I’ve ever known.
There are new challenges in the performance season to come, but it’s all good. I will gather my strength. I will lose my fear. I will tap into my power, dammit. This is my querencia, where I am most me. I will be myself, I will be happy, I will be focused and mighty and I will be with people who are every bit as amazing.
* not ready for that. not yet. someday, perhaps.
** rolling hill to anyone outside of Connecticut; don’t deny us our excitement