Fresh on the heels of a second move in less than six months, I’ve been thinking about what it means to be at home.
Some people live their whole lives in one town or even on one farm or piece of land. For them, being “at home” is tied at least in part to a specific piece of geography.
For others, home is a group. It could be family, or a religious tradition, or people of a specific culture or socio-economic status. Home is wherever their tribe is.
And there are others who never really feel at home wherever they end up. It may be due to feeling unwelcome because of who they are or it may simply be a general unease with other people.
What makes someone feel at home is incredibly specific to each of us, and often rather hard to quantify. And, while I’ve lived in many places, it’s always curious how some cities can feel like home to me almost instantly, while others don’t even years later.
After spending a great deal of time simplifying my possessions over the past 18 months, I thought I’d pared it down to the things I really love. But it turns out I’d really just pared it down to what fit neatly into my house in Milwaukee. Two moves to progressively smaller spaces have reintroduced clutter into my life and challenged me to think again about why I’m holding on to many things.
Beyond the question of “Is it useful?” I’m adding the question, “Does it feel like home?”
As I’ve spent the past week unpacking and trying to figure out where to place things, it occurred to me that a whole bunch of my stuff could go away tomorrow and I not only wouldn’t miss it, but would probably forget I’d ever had it in the first place. After all the rounds of #minsgame, I still have a few items that I purchased for the version of myself that I had hoped to become.
Exhibit A: I would like to be the kind of person who painstakingly rolls out cookies and frosts them while Christmas carols fill the room and snow falls softly outside. I have not been that person in the 10+ years I’ve had these. I will never be that person. You know what’s really crazy? I don’t even particularly like iced cookies.
Then there’s the stuff I would miss a little, but just doesn’t have a place in this new house or a role to play in my life any more. It doesn’t make me feel at home.
Exhibit B: A very heavy box of photo albums. Before I left Milwaukee, I went through all my loose photos, scanned them, and threw away the hard copies. It may be time to give that same treatment to these – if for no other reason than half of them are starting to fall apart.
I don’t know if I really know what feels like home to me, but I’m considering the question more in this new place in my new city.
I suspect that it includes growing things.
It requires an awesome place to read and to ponder.
It needs to feel relaxed and clear. Light and air must move freely. I’m not sure if this is chi or good old fashioned “frische Luft,” but I will always be someone who opens the blinds and cracks the windows open even when it’s a bit chilly out.
All I know for sure is my very old Christmas cactus, which is an offshoot of a plant that goes back generations in my family, is starting to bloom. Despite suffering the indignities of a hard pruning and a cross-country journey, it’s willing to keep growing.
Maybe home isn’t a place as much as it’s a feeling. Which means it’s always there for you, if you’re willing to let it blossom.
All pictures taken by me, with an iPhone, on a rainy Portland morning.