The wide open spaces of the American West shaped a certain person—self-sufficient, open, and adventurous. A tropical climate creates laid-back, slower-paced people. Even man-made geography, like skyscrapers or suburban tract houses, produces a cultural personality.
I have lived in and visited many places with distinctive geographical and psychological peculiarities. Each location has contributed to create the person I have become.
I was born in Chicago. Maybe that’s why, to this day, I feel at home and alive in big cities. I don’t really remember the city itself, since we moved to Missouri when I was two, but urban skyscrapers, along with forested roads and endless vistas in the Midwest, call to me. In Kansas City, the trees and streams and rolling hills were my sanctuary. We lived at the end of a circle, in a pioneer-era home, with a meadow, pond, stream, and forest behind us, but a bustling street only a city block to the northeast of us. Leafy-green foliage kept us hidden from, but close to, city life. I could burrow myself in a shrub or under a giant fir tree, where I couldn’t be found, and think, play, and dream. Childhood heaven!
As a young adult, I lived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for two summers, working for the American School Summer Rec Program, while my pilot father flew for Saudia Airlines. I believe it was there I finally learned to love the golden stillness of the desert. For the first and only time in my life, I lived near a body of water—the Red Sea, with its coral reefs and blue waves. Western females were warned to cover arms and ankles in 115° heat. The dusty gold souk smelled of sizzling shawarmas, tropical fruit, salty sea breeze, and sweat. I struggled to remember that many of these people were only one or two generations from being nomads. In Jeddah, I absorbed strength in diversity and control in individuality.
I studied in Paris for six months, and visited there before and since. In Paris, I found myself. Because of this gestational period of my life, my cultural surroundings, my mentors and companions, I discovered a strong and independent Bonnie during my time abroad. Every time I return to Paris, walk the streets of the Latin Quarter, appreciate the stained glass of Notre Dame or Sainte-Chapelle, and relax in the Luxembourg Gardens, I find her again.
We then relocated to the Dallas-Fort Worth area for employment. No family and friends at all. But Texas reminded me so much of my beloved, green-rolling-hills Missouri that I adored it! I could breathe again. We lived there several years. Our children were born there. We made fast friends. It felt so much like home I thought we might stay forever.
But after more than ten years away, we returned to Utah. Although I wasn’t happy about the move, I had forgotten how I missed the protection of the mountains and being near family. We have lived in Davis County, Utah, for over twenty years. Our children grew up here. We remodeled our home to suit ourselves. We enjoy helping friends and family. Yet I long for the verdant hills of the Midwest and the South.
In the past year I have visited Roanoke, Virginia, and the Washington, DC, area; Northern Wyoming; Cedar City and southern Utah; and Portland and coastal Oregon. Each place impressed me with its unique cultural beauty. I found not only my treasured trees and lush shrubbery, but the history and patriotism of Virginia and DC, spoke to my heart. Enjoying the Wyoming plains and Bighorn Mountains with my dad reminded me of the importance of land and roots. Red-rock wilderness juxtaposed with the refinement and emotion of world-class theater in a tiny southern Utah college town. The busy-ness and quirkiness of Portland, followed by the serenity of the ocean waves, sea life, and majestic Redwoods of the coast, soothed my spirit.
Each location we inhabit, even for a short time, touches us in a different way—modifying, and mending, our souls. Bodies and minds respond to geography. Personalities and cultures are molded by the land surrounding them.