I have been thinking a lot lately about home. People are stunned when I tell them I will not have one for a while. That I am selling mine. That my tent will be that place I call home. This also causes me anxiety, tightens my chest and shortens my breath. Knowing that I will not have a “home” as I have always known it. I will not have a place to get out of the weather, shut the door to the outside, close off the rest of the world, lock myself in. Not knowing exactly where that place will be one week to the next. My new home can be purchased at any outdoor sporting goods store and nearly every American can buy this sort of home. It is a few hundred, not a few hundred thousand, dollars. This will be my new home.
When we hear that word, read those letters, talk about that place we call “home”, what is it we really mean? I live in a college town. It is 2/3 students and 1/3 permanent residents. The students go “home” every weekend. But, wait, they live and work and spend their time here, in this town, where I live all the time. Why is this not “home”? They do not change their drivers license address, they do not change their voter registration (if they do vote) or their auto registration. They sing and dance about this town being their “home”, yet speed away every weekend, summer or Holiday break. Then this place, my town, my friend, is NOT your home.
People ask where I am from. I clarify, you mean where I was born or where I have spent most of my life? Where I feel like I am from or where I grew up? That makes a difference. I grew up in a place that is vastly different than the place I consider myself from. The place where I became me on a visceral level, on a conscious, on a spiritual level. The place where I know all, or most, of the towns, cities, cultures, roads, sights. I know very little about the place where I grew up. I do not follow their news or current events or read the papers. I do not visit often, and if I do, I am with friends and family and not taking time to learn much about the towns and cities. The place where I grew up is not my home.
Home is not a place that you run from. Home is the place you run to. Home is where you return when you visit somewhere else. Home is where you are the most you that you can be. Home is where you connect, where you have a sense of place, where you are known and where you know. Home may not be your address, may not be where you get your mail. Home is where you sleep, eat, lounge around in your underwear. Home is were you dance naked in the living room, where you fart out loud, where you cry and laugh and sing unabated. Home is your starting point and your ending place, where you rest your head, rest your heart and sooth your soul.
Somewhere in our culture, in our society, we know what this means. Have you ever heard the phrase “make this house a home”? We sing bout it, encourage young people to do it, and relish in this concept. We say it and advise it, but how many of us really take the time to dig deeper in our own lives and explore just what makes where we spend our days and nights, our home? Is it really where we hang our hat? Or Jacket? Perhaps our hopes and dreams?
Home is where we live our present, store our past, and plan for our future. Our possessions that may have a story or elicit a memory. In order for a place to feel like a home, we surround ourselves with items that make us feel good, that provide us comfort or that represent some aspect of ourselves. We choose colors, patterns, this chair or that couch. We wrap ourself in this blanket or lay our head on that pillow. Even if our items are second hand or were given to us free, if we may or may not have chosen the item. No matter how it came into our life, we will take the steps to make this thing our own. We will recover, repaint, add our blankets or pillows. We make these things ours in some small way so that we feel comfortable with this item as a part of our home. To belong in our home, this item must have a meaning to us, a purpose for us, or bring us a good feeling. The good feelings are what make our house a home.
I have been living in my house for some weeks. This house is no longer a home. I do not cook, I do not sleep in a bed, I do not have company over. There is no couch, table, or decoration. My walls are bare, my floors echo, the sights and sounds of my home no longer exist. I can shut the door and be in this place, but I am not fully resigned in this place. It is not a place of comfort and joy, as all the things that give me those feelings are gone. My house is no longer my home. I have transitioned enough in my preparations that I have no home. My current house does not elicit the feelings of a home, and yet, I am unable to create a home right now. Soon, but not yet.
When I camp, I take the time to make my space comfortable and “homey”. But, now that I really stop and think, what does that mean exactly? What makes a camp a home? That means I surround myself with things that make me happy. I have a camping lamp that I can hang in my tent, I have a little table to use for my computer, I have slippers to wear while inside. I have little amenities that make me feel calm, settled, happy. That is what makes it feel like home. A place I can relax, feel safe, secure. A place to put my possessions, a place to lay my head and rest. It is a place to close the door, though sounds and temperatures and weather will not be shut out. I will merely be shut in, away from sight, away from engagement. My home will be more fluid, but the things that make anyplace my home will be static. My clothes, my books, my food… all the things I need to survive and thrive will be with me. My home is also a place I will protect from intruders, uninvited guests, damage. My home will be my safe place, my safe space, a place I find comfort and joy.
I am already learning that home is more of a concept than an actual place. Home is a set of feelings, connections, a sense of safety and security. Home is not always a building or a town or a geographic region. Home is a state of connection, a state of mind. I feel like I am connected where I currently live, with the people who are near me, the nuances of this place where I have created a life. Home is where my possessions live, where I get my hair cut and my teeth checked and my medical care. Home is where I can go into a business and see someone I know. Home is where I have meaningful roots.
I will not have a static home for a while and I will not live at my address of record. I will not get my mail or my newspaper at my home. I will not “go home” to an existing place once this journey is over. But, if you ask me where I am from, where is “home”, I will name this place where I now live. I will give you a city or a region and even a state. No, not the DC, but the actual State. You will find it hard to deal with me when I tell you I really have no home at present. I do not have that building or dwelling to which I can return. What I do have is a community, a place where I am known and where I know. That place I feel familiar, relaxed, settled. Until I choose otherwise, this is home.
As I venture out I take with me my home. I take with me this sense of place, this sense of belonging to a community. I also take with me the desire to explore where I fit, where I belong, where I want and need to be. I take a sense of exploration and quest. I am off to dig deeper into that sense of home, that concept of place, find that space where I want most in the world to be. I take with me a sense of home because of the people “back home”. My community, my friends, that place where I feel I belong, am welcome, always. I am leaving, but with me goes the safety, familiarity, and security of home.
May you always find your way back to your home.