Studies show that our favorite music—the tunes that stir us the most—come from the soundtracks of our younger years. Musicologist Nolan Gasser, architect of The Music Genome Project, says that even though our tastes evolve, “The music people listened to at an early age becomes their native home comfort music. It will always be a part of who they are, tied in with deeper memories. It becomes a stake in the ground that says ‘this is who I am.’”
This rings true for me. My playlists are eclectic—new age, ambient, 70s/80/90s, jazz, metal, reggae, flamenco, bluegrass, folk—but there are certain classic rock tunes that transport me to another time and place. As Boston said, “It’s more than feeling.” I see this in my parents. On a recent visit, they asked me to sit with them and watch a rerun of an old Lawrence Welk episode. I squirmed in my chair, but they were enraptured.
This kind of organic resonance also applies to our favorite places. In a book I recently co-authored, one of the chapters begins like this:
“Think of a place that has a powerful hold on you. It may be a family homestead, a setting in nature, or a venue in your city where you spend quality time. These locations evoke more than memories; they stir our spirits and connect us with memories of times past.”
Where is this habitat of your heart, past or present? Specifically, where is that place in the woods, the fields, the mountains, or along the seashore that stakes your heart powerfully in time? Tell me its sights, smells, sounds and textures.
For me, the chaparral hills of Southern California, mingled with orange and avocado orchards, will always lay claim to my spirit. This was the playground of my childhood. It’s Mediterranean climate, Santa Ana winds, sage, manzanita, scrub oak, and “warm smell of colitas rising up through air.” Its kingsnakes, alligator lizards, roadrunners. The intoxicating aroma of orange blossoms on a summer evening.
As a geographical transplant, I now have a new heart habitat. 15 years in Texas has led me to a lasting kinship with its Hill Country, especially its cypress-lined rivers. When I feel restless, experiencing what Richard Louv calls “nature deficit,” I drive a half hour north to Bandera. I park at a secluded place on the northern edge of town, then walk to the banks of the Medina River and wander slowly along its course. I am learning the names of trees, shrubs, flowers and grasses in this biome. Its birds, butterflies, reptiles and mammals are becoming family members.
I have taken this walk countless times, savoring every season, but it is always fresh. Here is a slideshow of images from recent trips. Spend a moment and watch them.
I ask again: where is the habitat of your heart? If it’s a childhood place and you still live there, immerse yourself! If you live in a new locale but have not discovered a habitat to cherish, get out there!
As Stephen Stills sang, “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.”