"Attachment, of course, is not always problematic. There may be profound pleasure in longing for the past and in indulging in memories. When the soul stirs in us, we may be pulled to visit an old, familiar neighborhood or friends of another time in life. Writer Horton Foote's soulful 1985 film The Trip to Bountiful paints the emotions of our attachment with beautiful expressionistic colors. In it, Mrs. Watts, a sensitive old woman living in the city with her son and his wife, develops a yearning to visit her family home, now long abandoned, in Bountiful, Texas. Her daughter-in-law interprets this wish as sentimental senility, and she convinces her husband to thwart the old lady's attempts to take a train or bus to visit her long-abandoned homestead. Mrs. Watts expresses the elemental nature of her longing plainly: 'I haven't had my hands in dirt in twenty years. My hands feel the need of dirt.'

"Finally, Mrs. Watts finds her way, picking an understanding friend and losing her purse, which contains the pension check she had planned on using as a stake for setting up a new life back home. To her daughter-in-law, this check represents money needed to pay the rent in the city; to Mrs. Watts the check's loss is an opportunity to be free of the future. A sheriff finally drives her to her home, where the land has gone to weed and the people of her childhood have all died. Still, having made this brief visit, she is content. She is well aware that her home is truly bountiful. Thinking about her loveless marriage and the problems of her friends, she says, 'Well, I don't think about these things now. But they're all part of Bountiful.' For all of us, the past to which the soul is attached, even when our intentions are to be liberated from it, and even though it is teeming with failures, is bountiful, rich, full, and, in its own way, necessary.

"Horton Foote said he hoped to write this story in a way that would avoid sentimentality; yet there is a kind of sentimentality that is appropriate to the soul. The longing for a bountiful home is an archetypal theme, a mood and a fantasy that can visit us at any time, but perhaps especially as we get older. There is also, of course, a pragmatic forward thinking Daughter-in-Law in most of us, who sees this soul-longing as a nuisance and distraction, but if we give in to the Old Woman, we may find an important nutrient for the soul in her sentimentality.

"The feeling of longing, the ache of desire for a familiar place or thing, the urgency to visit old friends and places, are all expressions of the soul. The soul wants these things fiercely, as though its well-being required them, even if the demands of life make fulfilling needs seem impractical. Like the visit to Bountiful, Texas, the trip may not be easy, but even for only a moment of memory, it may be worth the effort."

Back to reading a full review of this book.