The Art of Finding Home
Close your eyes
Feel the snow under your feet
You are not cold.
They dance to your heartbeat
Your thoughts unfold.
Crystal flowers bloom
Sparkle against the deep night skies
You are warm – you are home.
As I lay in bed last night, tired with sleeplessness, I started thinking of all the places I had ever called home and of the door that is soon to close behind me. “Home is where the heart is” – the idiom popped up in my head – but if so it must be, I pondered, I am not quite sure where my home is.
“Where is home?” is, I suppose, a question which cannot be answered without first asking “What is home?” Such simple-looking questions – three familiar words, used several dozen times a day… Just like the house, the flat or the city we live in, they must have had us startled and confused at some point, when we had only just discovered them in childhood. Then we became quite insensitive to them, as we do to most things. This resembles what philosopher John Dewey would call the anaesthetic malady. Mechanical, repetitive labour, for example, places human beings in a state of constant repetition and humdrum that hinders creativity and all other forms of aesthetic experiences, by which one simply means experiences that hold a sense of reality and vitality essential to intellectual activity.
The same is true of the places we frequent on a regular basis. Remember the first time you moved to a new place: when everything was new and unfamiliar still, all seemed full of wonders and mysteries. You may have been overwhelmed with the uncomfortable, yet thrilling sensation that you did not belong. Yet, every step was an adventure! The first walk you took around the neighbourhood feels much longer in retrospect than all the other walks you later took down these very same streets. Only after leaving for a period of time and returning or trying to share your favourite places with someone else brings you back to the sense of completeness and actual experiencing you first felt because then, your personal attachment and the memories, painful or dear, you associate with each spot, each nook and cranny, come into play.
What, then, is home? My parents have sold the flat I have been calling home for years. My first impression of it was one of disgust. We fixed the place together. It grew on me and then… I stopped noticing the nice little details about it. It was just home. Still I know that I will miss secluding myself in the green bedroom with the drawing table and black curtains to read, to paint, to write or dance in the middle of the night. I have associated memories with the flat, but leaving also means starting anew. That place is only a material representation of home, so will another feel less like home? I have moved many times before and always adapted. No one house or flat has ever felt more like home than another. What I know, however, is that I have never felt quite at-home in the city where I currently live, which brings me back to the opening question of this paragraph: what is home? And why do we ache for home even when we seem to have no fixed place to call home?
The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.– Maya Angelou