The past two weeks, I’ve thrown myself into looking for a new house. It’s the first time I’ve personally stood at the helm of the search for a place that I would be staying in somewhat long-term. Even though it’s just a rental and even though I’ve just been searching for a couple of weeks, I find the project to be completely emotionally draining.
I’ve had many living spaces in my life, some more “homey” than others. There was a two-year period in my early twenties when I moved no less than eight times, not including the two to three months during that time that I basically lived out of my car and bounced around between friends’ houses or the two-and-a-half months that I lived out of a suitcase in southern Africa. For many reasons, home is just as important to me as it is elusive.
There is a part of me that wants to find a place that feels like home, cling to a banister there and refuse to leave. But- what feels like home? If only there was a written recipe to follow. Sometimes, a person makes a home. I didn’t realize how much of my home was tied to my mother until she was gone. Similarly, my boyfriend warmly reminds me that he is my home, and while that home doesn’t always come with a dishwasher or coat closet (one can only wish), it does feel homey just the same. Then of course, the love of friends and family as well as spiritual beliefs can provide a palpable constancy in chaos of life changes.
Then there are aspects of home that awaken my senses. The smell of sourdough bread baking. The sound of bluegrass music or James Taylor. The feel of being wrapped in a worn, tattered quilt. Sometimes more elusive things; things I never really grew up with, like the feel of old, scuffed hardwood under my feet or a handmade rope rug or the warm glow of an oil lamp burning. Maybe this is the home of my ancestors calling out to me.
For all of that, though, there is still something missing for me, and I have a good feeling that no bricks or mortar will change that. Somewhere along the way, I lost my home and my sense of home, and the struggle to get that back has been more than ten years in the making. While I want my home to be more than some hodgepodge of people, places, and memories pasted together like a bad scrapbook, right now that is what I have.
Over the past year, I’ve come to realize that, at least for me, home might consist of more journey than destination. At first, that was no more comforting than believing that I didn’t have one. I wanted to hold home in my hands and knead it just like the sourdough bread I used to help my mom make growing up. Let it rise a little, bake and serve. Done. I feared that not having that concreteness to depend on might mean that I had lost a sense of home forever.
Lately, though, I’ve come to appreciate home’s elusiveness. My journey of home is dynamic; it tells a story of who I am and what I have experienced. In it lies nuance, challenges, and discovery. It has a past, present, and future. Instead of sitting stagnant, it flows, telling its own story: the story of who I am and what I want my life to be.
I wear on my back an image of my mother’s favorite necklace. It is a symbol that was once worn by the Tuareg people of northern Africa. They were nomadic; they wore this symbol both to identify their lineage (like a family crest) and to protect them wherever they went. The four points represented the four corners of the earth because they never knew where their path might lead.
I can’t honestly say where my path will lead. However, just as I know that a meandering stream will eventually lead to a lake or ocean, so too do I know that my own journey will lead me home. I could become frustrated at the distance I have yet to travel, or I could sit back in my canoe and snap some amazing photos along the way. Who knows? I may even catch a fish or two.