Every time I return to my home state, Wyoming, I am knocked over by the forceful shock of how much I miss it. The ash blue-grey mountains that show themselves from a safe distance at first along Highway 191 and then loom larger and larger the closer we get to my hometown of Pinedale. The way the mountains stretch toward the sky in all their towering majesty, encasing a rugged landscape in which brittle sagebrush and dark green pine produce scents that, in every season, can knock you off your feet. The way spring rushes in with fury, as if waiting for the slightest permission of the hard winters, and icy runoff rushes down the mountain slopes with threatening force.
I miss the unspoken pride that comes with being tough, a toughness that comes with living in a place where harsh winters mean people gather firewood and build fires in wood stoves and rise before the sun to shovel sidewalks, feed cows, perhaps even make a 100-mile trek to the nearest Wal Mart.
I miss all of that. And yet, as proud as I am to assert I am from that place, to say I grew up there, I have never felt entirely comfortable or worthy to claim the tough spirit that is required to make a life there.
I have never felt that I completely fit with that region of the country.
I have lived outside of Wyoming for ten years now, moving from state to state first because of college, then because of marriage, then because of a job’s demands.
I have lived in Minnesota, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska and California.
I have studied regions, heard the stereotypes, tried to fit in.
And I think, when it comes right down to it, I much better fit the stereotype of a Midwestern girl than a rough-and-tumble mountain girl.
The niceness, the easygoing way of making friends, the dozens of smaller communities sandwiched between spaced-apart cities that each have their own identity: Minneapolis, Kansas City, Omaha. Peacoats and casseroles and frequent small group get-togethers.
Or am I trying too hard to classify?
Because dang, as much as I love all of those things, I still miss the jagged mountain peaks and the tough winters and the smell of cows.
What do you think? Do you feel a certain sense of belonging to any particular region of the country? Do you notice differences, give in to regional stereotypes, set yourself apart from others based on what state you live or grew up in?
Or is it all a wash? Are we all just people, trying to find our way in a world that is growing more diverse every day?
Where, if anywhere, do you fit?
*PS – Check out the “Events” paged for some new listings!