In mid-March, I flew from Colorado to Massachusetts to spend three weeks with my father. This is a trip I make twice a year, staying for two or three weeks of concentrated time talking, doing small errands or chores, seeing my sister — the only sibling who lives close to our father — and sharing the many quiet moments of daily life. During this visit, I have been thinking about what constitutes “home”. . .and I was surprised by what has been unfolding in my heart over the years while I wasn’t paying a lot of attention.
Home is definitely the townhouse in which I live with my husband in Colorado, as it was the condominium in western Massachusetts where we lived with our daughter before that, and two parsonages prior to that. But when George and I travel together, we often exchange houses with families in the country we are visiting and those places — wherever they are located and however short the time frame we inhabit them — are home. At the end of a long day, I don’t say, “Let’s go back to the house,” I say, “It’s time to go home.”
And, the house in which my father lives (a house he and my mother and younger sibs moved to when I was in college) is also home. Not because it was ever a “real” childhood home, but because he is there, and it holds the story of family love and the story of my mother’s death.
The New England coast is home. . .anywhere I sit or stand along it, looking out at ocean stretching to the horizon.
There are very few places of worship (from the stone circle at Avebury, to Chartres, to a small Buddhist temple I visited, to the Jewish temple near my apartment in New York, to the beloved New England meetinghouse where I preached for 14 years) that do not feel like home. My spirit quiets and I feel grounded and centered no matter what the current tempests blowing through my life.
Home is the Isle of Skye, the Burren in Ireland, Newgrange, the Rocky Mountains, Sainte-Chapelle, the island where my daughter was conceived, her house halfway across the country from mine (a house she shares with our new son-in-law), my sister’s home where I lived with her for several weeks as she recovered from major surgery, the house where my brother and sister-in-law got married, an apartment we lived in twice outside Paris, Mont St Michel, a tea shop in Edinburgh. I realize that the places are increasing in number with each year, and that I feel them as home with an intensity I never anticipated.
I realize that more places I experience feel like “home” than don’t feel like home. I don’t actually need to get my mail there, to hang my clothes there, to put up art or arrange the living room, even to return frequently, for a particular space to be home. And I am wondering if this is a quality of age: to begin to realize that the earth is home, that creation is home — not in some abstract theoretical way, but deep in the heart. I suspect that if I let go of the protective boundaries, every scrap of the planet (seen and unseen) will be home in the realest, richest, truest way.
I wonder if this is why I pick up litter and plant gardens everywhere I have ever settled long enough to do so.
What is home to you? A person, a place, a feeling? How do you nest into a home? What do you need to bring to a space (if anything) to make it home: a meal, a person, an attitude, your family photos? Does your home end at the front door, the edge of the yard, the boundaries of the town, the state, the nation?
Or is there no limit to the places you mean when you say home?
Text © 2014, Andrea La Sonde Anastos
Photo © 2008, 2011, Immram Chara, LLC