I grew up in Zimbabwe. I now live about 2000 km further South and slightly West of that. It doesn’t seem like a terribly big distance. But in that 2000 km is a world of difference. I don’t mean in a political sense, but rather in a physical sense.
I grew up in the tropics with summer rainfall, cold winter’s nights, but sunny and bright winter’s days. The difference in the midday high between summer and winter was probably only 10 degrees. Where I live now, is temperate, with wet winters and hot dry summers.
There is something about the physical environment where you grew up which somehow seeps into your bones. Why is it, that on visiting a place still far from my birthplace, but close enough for the sunset to have the sharp edge of the tropical dusk my whole nervous system settles. It is as if my body breathes a sigh of relief.
How is it that this place that I have never visited before feels more like home than the city in which I have dwelt for 13 years – a third of my entire life?
Many of the peoples of Southern Africa have a strong attachment to the place of their birth. There is an understanding that you should be buried with your ancestors in the place of your birth. I don’t know about the significance of that. But I am not surprised at all that a strong mythology has grown up to describe and to explain the physical response to being back where you belong.
If I can feel this sense of at homeness based on the quality of light at sunset, how much more so if I had walked these hills as a child?