Yesterday I went for a walk around Promontory Point for the first time since my surgery, and I realized: a place can help restore our sense of self. Three months after the surgery, I was taking this walk that I have taken so many times before, and:

I felt that I was reclaiming a part of myself.

Making the round of this peninsula that struts out into Lake Michigan allowed me to slip into my old skin, to feel like myself again, even if it was a stretch for me to walk for 20 minutes. It let me do what I always did in this place and was now doing again: watch the waves pound the embankment, gaze out at the wide open horizon of this big lake, and observe the skyline of downtown Chicago, which quite often shimmers more like a Fata Morgana in the distance than a familiar, close destination.

The power of place

has always fascinated me, in particular the question of why we seek out places of the past, not even necessarily our own past but the past of our ancestors. I wrote about this in Honoring Our Roots and Why Returning to Our Roots is so Powerful.

Yesterday’s walk gave me another very physical clue. Going back to a place you used to go (in my case not so long ago!) allows you to reconnect to yourself, re-establish your identity, or reaffirm it: This is what I do, this is who I am.

This might, by extension, also be

why we visit places of our family’s past.

It’s not because we used to do stuff there, but because they used to do stuff there. Being in the place gives us the space, a bridge of you will, to connect. We can slip into it. We might feel how they felt, if only physically, in that place.

We’ll look out the same window and feel the wind blow down the mountain because that’s what the wind does in that location. And this is why, in order to write Jumping Over Shadows, I traveled to my grandparents’ hometown Liberec in the Czech Republic more than once, and I am sure I will do so again.