May 26, 2005
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by EMILY GURNON
Five years ago, as my husband
and I prepared to pull up stakes in San Francisco and move to
Humboldt County, one of my editors at the San Francisco Examiner,
where I worked, said, "Why don't you write about why you're
The resulting story ran on the
front page of the combined Sunday Examiner/Chronicle,
making a bit of a ripple both here and in the city.
I wrote about how, with a 2-year-old
and a baby on the way, my husband and I had decided that San
Francisco was not to be our place. We were squeezed into a tiny
rental apartment, our good jobs could not get us a house anywhere
close to the city, and getting around town with little ones was
too aggravating and complicated to believe. I also said a few
not-very-nice things about the dot-commers who seemed to have
taken over my beloved city by the bay. And I talked about Arcata,
the progressive college town we had discovered.
The story apparently struck
a chord -- the Examiner received a couple hundred e-mails,
basically saying either, "I know how she feels!" or
"She's full of *&%!"
It's not that my story was special
in any way. What made people respond the way they did, I think,
was the fact that the idea of "home" is one many of
us struggle with.
Which leads me to my reason
for writing this column: My family will be moving next month
to Minnesota, and, sadly, this is my last week with the Journal.
The decision to move again comes
after much soul-searching. We have loved the North Coast: the
ocean, the mountains, the redwoods, the pace and intimacy of
small-town living. And, of course, the people.
But Minnesota -- and particularly
St. Paul, where we'll probably live -- is where I grew up. I
still have family there. My kids will be able to see their grandmother,
aunts, uncles and cousins more than once a year. And my extended
family will once again feel like a concrete part of my life --
for better or worse.
Last summer, when we were there
visiting, I went to church with my mother. She attends the same
church she took us to when we were kids, and I was blown away
by the fact that I was in a place with people who have known
us, known me, for 35 years. There was a time in my life
when I wanted to get as far away from that feeling as possible
-- that feeling of being "owned" by a place or a group
of people. And I did. But living here, I have envied people who
said, "I'm a third-generation Eurekan," or "My
kids are going to the same school I did." People who know
where they belong.
Do I belong in Minnesota? I
think so, though going back won't be easy. I've been a Californian
for nearly 20 years. Will I curse the fifth month of snow next
winter? Will I have attacks of claustrophobia at the thought
of being 1,500 miles from the coast? Probably. Will I continue
to look around and wonder if I'm home? If we should go somewhere
One thing I will do, without
a doubt, is miss all of the people who have made Humboldt County
such a warm and welcoming place for us. All of our children's
stellar teachers and caretakers. All of my wonderful co-workers
at the Journal. All of the friends who shared dinners
and play-dates and birthday parties with us, witnesses to the
daily passage of our lives. And all of the people who made a
special point to write to me, or say hello, when we first arrived
here. To all of you: thanks.
Fortunately for the Journal,
our exceedingly talented senior staff writer, Hank Sims, will
take over as editor. Hank holds a master's degree from the Graduate
School of Journalism at UC Berkeley. He reads about 8 million
books, magazines and newspapers a week, and thoroughly grasps
issues before most of us can say, "Huh?"
I will be working as a reporter
for the daily St. Paul Pioneer Press, the paper I pulled
off our front lawn as a kid. Drop me a line.
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