Lizbeth Gordon, a high school counselor famous for conflict resolution in everyone’s life but her own, returns home to South Carolina after twenty years in the Pacific Northwest. She expects to find solace walking the winter beach and energy to reinvent herself after a personal tragedy. But an elderly aunt hints of Civil War family scandals; spies on the Island of Nassau, a blockade runner hunted as a traitor and a mixed-race child. Lizbeth is struck by the parallels between her current search for home and belonging and that of her ancestors who fled the American South. She embarks on a quest that takes her from Charleston to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where she finds descendants of her nineteenth century family. Lizbeth learns the truth about exiled Gordons and a path to heal wounds that split her family for generations
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In Exiled South, Lizbeth Gordon remembers doing this exercise and identifying Folly Beach, South Carolina as her Heart’s Home.
Where is Your Heart’s Home?
The exercise honors the influence of Place on identity and belonging. Another way to put it is, how have certain travel and cultural experiences drawn you in, made you feel at home, while others have not? Where is Your Heart’s Home can be done alone, or with a group. If you have a large space to move around, indoors or outside, that’s great. If not, the exercise can be done as a visualization.
To begin, stand looking out into the space you have chosen, or close your eyes and visualize you are doing so. Imagine a world map with Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and Australia on your left, the Americas in front of you, Europe and Russia to your right with the Middle East and Africa below them.
Move physically on your world map (or in your mind) to the first place you remember living. Take a moment to settle in. Feel the sounds, the smells, the temperature and taste of your surroundings. Who is there with you and how do they contribute to your experience of the place? Stay with your thoughts and feelings for a few minutes, gathering information.
When you are ready to let the first place go, move to the next place you remember living. You might still be a child in the new spot or perhaps you are now an adult going off to a job, school, or the military. Spend a few minutes in your second place, soak in the influences in the same way you did the first place you visited.
When you are ready, continue to move around your places in your ‘world’, move on, giving each relocation time for memories and feelings as you go.
Some people will have many moves, others only a couple. There is no judgment on quantity of place; it’s about quality of experience and where you find your heart most resonates. Where do you fit best? As you move through this exercise, you may find it is not always the place lived longest that has the strongest pull on the heartstrings. Sometimes a vacation spot has a greater impact on where a person feels most him/herself than a location lived longest. Occasionally people have more than one ‘heart’s home’. Recognizing that is one way to honor the evolution of your identity. Remember the purpose is to be curious about how places have affected your contentment, and your feeling of belonging.
Most people find this exercise fun and enlightening. Some find doing this exercise helpful for understanding a partner, parents or extended family members. You might want to make a few notes on what moved you and share it.