1/17/14 - 1/21/14
Update: All new posts can be found at http://thewanderingmind.net.
Fair warning: This post is a teensy bit sentimental. And only tangentially related to travel. And has nothing to do with my trip to Europe. I still have much to share about Athens, Mykonos, Naples, and a bit more about Rome. I might actually finish blogging about the trip sometime this year.
Home. It is incredible that such a small word could be so much on my mind lately. Perhaps because this song has been stuck in my head (not that I’m complaining – I love this song). Or maybe it’s because I’ve moved as many times in the past 6 months as I have in the past 6 years. But more likely it’s because my life has been turned upside down and the people and places that have been “home” to me for a long time have lost that designation, so I’ve been left questioning what home means to me now.
Not that I am the first to ponder this topic. There is much that has been said about home:
- “Home is where the heart is”
- “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”
- “There’s no place like home.”
- “Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to”
But I am still left wondering how I define home.
I realize this is a departure from the typical content for my travel blog. On the other hand, as much as I love to travel, that love has always been counterbalanced by a draw toward home, toward a safe haven in my often stressful world (although admittedly a certain level of that stress is self-induced, e.g., grad school). The challenge lately is that I don’t really know where or what that is. Strangely, it took a little bit of traveling to help me figure it out. On a recent trip to Arkansas, a place that was home for most of my life, I had some time to reflect on the meaning of home.
I lived in the moments where I felt that mix of comfort and familiarity that signaled that this, this moment, is home.
There was the drive into my hometown as the sun was setting over the Ozark Mountains, accompanied by the sense of peace that settled over me as I reveled in being away from the city for a few days.
I drank my morning coffee while drinking in the view from my parent’s backyard, hearing nothing but the rush of the river and the occasional bird or squirrel.
I spent time with my dad as Sydney and I explored the land behind their house for the first time (after living there for more than 15 years my parents finally cleared off the land behind their house in order to access the river). As I walked/climbed down the bluff, I marveled at the beauty of the cold morning.
I ate my all time favorite breakfast – my dad’s unbeatable fluffy, blueberry pancakes. The taste took me back to comfortable, childhood Saturday mornings. Regardless of what else was going on in my life, I knew that I could count on Saturday morning pancakes. Although they would be somewhat less delicious when my parents were on an intermittent healthy kick. As an adult, I know that when I visit my parents, there will always be blueberries waiting for me.
I watched the sunset over the river, feeling calm sink into my soul.
I spent time with family, for whom the simple fact of me visiting was a sufficient reason to get together for a party. These are the people who still want to spend time with me and are proud of me despite having seen me at my worst, and that includes the big, red glasses (seriously, what was I thinking?) and snotty teenager eras.
I ate some of my favorite foods while catching up with the people who love me the most.
My friend made another batch of his always delectable “experimental cookies” – so called (by me) because no two batches are ever the same, yet that is what makes them wonderful.
I spent time with friends who reminded me that I am loved. I had some happy moments and some sad moments. I revisited places where some of my best memories and strongest friendships were made.
I had coffee at the coffee shop that’s been my favorite for more than a decade and where countless late night granitas have been consumed with both laughter and tears.
I did something entirely new, in this case getting my ears pierced, just because I could. And because my best friend made it that much more fun to get a needle punched through my ear lobe.
I played board games and video games (with a 7-year-old who pretty much always beat me). I was surrounded by a sense of belonging and a certainty about my life that I have not felt in a while.
Home is a tenuous idea that may be easy to recognize, but is difficult to define. I realized that, for me, home is family and friends wrapped up in tradition and expectation and love. Home is a place of profound familiarity that gives me the strength to explore and take chances in an unfamiliar and sometimes scary world. It’s a place of comfort that I carry with me as I learn and change. It is the peace of nature that soothes an aching heart and eases the anxiety that creeps into my life day after day of living in a city. Home is where I feel comfortable enough to joyfully celebrate and privately grieve. It is a place toward which I feel an inexorable pull, even as I long to travel to entirely new places. Home was a place I found over and over throughout my time in Arkansas. Now, as I work toward rebuilding a home in the place where I live, these are the things I must create and find.