It was was dark outside. All I could see were small clusters of lights as our plane came in to land, but I knew the unseen rural New England landscape well. In years past this landing meant I was coming home from college or in later years for a visit with my ageing parents, my young children by my side. Feelings now, as then, were a mixture of anticipation and melancholy. The melancholy was from the recognition that time was closing in on the remaining time left between me and my parents. Those disturbing feelings are a visitor that accompanies advancing age, deepening recognition that the clock is ticking and adding a bittersweet quality to events that were once never given much thought.
The empty airport concourse signalled immediately that no one would be there any longer for my homecoming. It had been decades ago, but happy images of my mother and father waiting for me remained alive, however impossible. The Christmas decorations on display looked a little cheesier to me than they had in my youth. Mounds of dirty snow were the only remainders of last week’s early snowstorm. The cold air seemed colder than I’d remembered. The winter coat I’d brought with me in defense of the cold warmed me, but felt heavy and oppressive.
I’d come to visit a dear relative who is being treated for a grave illness. I was relieved to finally visit, but apprehensive too. Continue reading “Going Home!?”→
Why does it still seem so improbable to me that a giant aircraft can lift off from the ground and carry me at speeds I cannot feel across vast oceans, then deposit me back to earth in another land? Each time I fly, the experience seems remarkable, particularly if it is a trip of several hours, traversing invisible timelines, geography, climates, seasons and cultures!
I noticed this trip to Japan and back that there is a short window after I first land in which my experience of otherness is strongly heightened before it becomes familiar again. It’s like seeing a place through new eyes when at first everything seems foreign.
The city of Kyoto, while thriving and contemporary, contains the wisdom and legacy of hundreds and hundreds of years within it. You brush up against it daily in the traditions, the food, in the politeness of interpersonal transactions as well as in the more obvious gardens and architecture. For me, visiting Kyoto is like entering an ongoing river of time. I am always altered by it in some way during each visit. For the better! Continue reading “Back to Earth”→
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.
“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 Botton, The 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.”
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.
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.”