Coming Home

Maya Angelou

“The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”
― Maya AngelouAll God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes

 

I’ve been thinking about the word “home” lately.  Not as in I’m goin’ home, Lord, but as in where or what is home for me now? What does coming  “home” mean?  At the moment, I spend time in several disparate places, each of which is “home” while I’m there.  Maybe not home home in the idealized sense of the word, but home enough, if you get my drift.

 

Alain de Botton

“We need a home in the psychological sense as much as we need one in the physical: to compensate for a vulnerability. We need a refuge to shore up our states of mind, because so much of the world is opposed to our allegiances. We need our rooms to align us to desirable versions of ourselves and to keep alive the important, evanescent sides of us.”
― Alain de BottonThe Architecture of Happiness

 

We think about home all through our lives, I believe.  It’s meaning changes as our experiences do and as our sense of belonging to a place waxes or wanes.  I’ve lived in places with houses that provided me with shelter, but they never got under my skin enough to feel attached.  they were just places to live.  When I walked away, it was as if I’d never lived there.  Those spaces bored me but didn’t challenge, welcome or change me.  They were not what I consider home, even though I lived there with family.

What do I mean when I say I feel at home?  comfort?  familiarity? People I know and love?  Most definitely. But there’s more.  For me, add birdsong on a spring morning. Anytime, anywhere= home.  Ditto crickets on a late summer evening. The sound of wind in the trees.  The scent of jasmine or lilacs.  The crunch of snow. A New England lobster. A small grocery store.

“Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.”
― Gary Snyder

Recently we were in Key West, Florida.  The turquoise ocean, sky, sun on my back and the tropical vibe remind me of my years at college in Miami.  Although it’s been decades since I’ve spent time in Florida, it took little adjustment to feel “at home.”

athens ga
MIddle home was ours in Athens, GA in the 1970’s

The front porch of the house we were in reminded me of the front porch of the 1920’s home we lived in during the 70’s in  Athens, Ga. I’ve concluded every house should have a front porch.  It’s so damn neighborly. People biked or walked past our house frequently, helping to make me feel connected to my surroundings.  Instant gratification.

Knowing people where you are can help to feel as if you belong.  Anonymity goes just so far. Initially, it feels liberating, but can quickly lead directly to loneliness, in my experience.

Santa Barbara has become home for over 20 years.  I happily call myself a Californian and a Santa Barbarian. There’s a strong sense of place in Santa Barbara that I enjoy.  It’s home enough too, meaning that I’m not pining to live elsewhere.Maybe that’s all we get once we leave our childhood home. I realize no place is perfect at least not in the long run!

All pundits make it clear that you can’t go home again.  I can no longer return to the home of my parents.  I hold those early images within me, always available to access if I feel the desire. Luckily,  I have no desire to go back to my old hometown.  Once my parents passed away there was no longer a reason to return. Most of my friends moved elsewhere and there was really not much to return to.

 

yale st
My childhood home

 

If I’m honest with myself, I still have a deep longing to revisit rural parts of New England that were a part of my earlier life.  Give me a rambling river or stream.  Throw in a  perfectly proportioned village built in earlier centuries. Arrange the white colonial clapboard houses around a village green.  Call me nostalgic, but there’s no more pleasing look to me anywhere.  Maybe I’d find living in such a place stifling.  I guess I’ll never know. Now, with advancing age, it’s unlikely that I’ll have a chance to try it out.

New York City is a stopping point for me, but I’ve determined it cannot be home.  It’s just too intense on many levels for me to find the level of comfort I need.  However, friends and family continue to keep it on my must visit soon list. The saying it’s A great place to visit, but not to live (especially if you’re over 40) holds true for me.

Strangely enough, I can feel deeply at home in Japan.  The aesthetics of the ancient country resonate as do the temples and landscapes which are such a vital part of it.  Japan has nothing to do with the look of an earlier time in my life, but rather connects to something more mysterious within me, something deeper that I pay attention to, but don’t necessarily understand.

“Beautiful places are not just a joy for the moment, while you’re there. They will become homes for you, spaces of solace and comfort, where you can close your eyes and go to. Nothing you experience will ever go away. It belongs to you now. Just feel.”  Charlotte Eriksson

 

In our era of rampant homelessness and with millions of refugees roaming the earth without a country or a home, I realize just considering the issue of what a “home” is from my vantage point, is a privilege as well as an indulgence.  Ask a homeless person or a refugee and their responses and thinking about it will undoubtedly be quite different from mine.

Ultimately, I think coming home means recognizing love.  There’s not a moment in my life that has been more wonderful and fulfilling than the photo of me with my newborn granddaughter., witnessing and experiencing the miracle of new life and connection.  Truly coming “home.”

5 thoughts on “Coming Home

  1. Beautiful Dianne! I moved a lot until 36 years ago – 14 different abodes including a converted school bus and a houseboat, and attended different schools every year until the 8th grade, sometimes more than 1 a year. It made me more adaptable, but maybe it makes it harder now to feel truly “home” in the sense of a domicile. Santa Barbara has been “home” off and on since 1961, so that comes the closest in spite of 8 different dwellings. I have felt the present house was home, but after 36 years and now thinking about retirement and moving to an easier place to keep up, that’s a bit up in the air. So, yes, love and human connection are a kind of home you can return to, even if it’s only in your mind. Or a photo… BTW, I started out as a New Englander. Well, nearly. Born In PA but moved to Concord MASS after 2 years and stayed for 6. Given the compression of time that comes with age, those 6 years were almost equivalent to the more recent 36. Ain’t nostalgia a strange and wonderful thing!?

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  2. I think your relationship to the natural world is as good and as pure as it gets. You have found a way to enter it and become one with it. It’s a gift to have you near me again to understand the context I’m referring to in a way no one else can!

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  3. Lovely reflective piece dear friend.
    I had struggled for so long to understand “home” as I lost mine early as one’s childhood home. I too had moved many times over the years having lived in various neighborhoods in New York City for a long time. For the past 25 years home has been any spot near, in or around nature that allows me to be part of it. Woods oceans hills anywhere anytime.
    It is so true that one can pull up the memories of our past homes . The picture of your childhood home made me zoom in on the second floor and the crispness of our teen conversations that establish bonds over all time and space
    Thanks for continuing your writings

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