Wednesday, May 09, 2012


Anyone who has followed me around for long enough knows that I am captivated by the idea of home. My fancy classroom words for this are place and presence and spaces and local community. Home has changed for me in the last four years. While I haven't written about those changes very frequently on this blog, many of you know some of the unhappy changes that took place inside my immediate family.

When "home" changed, I learned that my definition was based on experience only. When experience changed, the definition changed, and I didn't know to what.

I'd like to believe that "home" is an ideal that was revealed to humanity along with the moment consciousness was given. I'd like to believe that "home" was a real place and meant all sorts of idealistic things: comfort, acceptance, love, security, laughter, food, friendship, forgiveness, etc. They sound sappy when you line them up like that, stuffed with a warm, naive light like a Thanksgiving turkey with onions and bread crumbs.

In fact, I do believe it existed. Exists. Will exist.

My anxiety about the meaning of home, however, has subsided. I think the need to define and question quiets when it is answered by another experience. Whim Cotty was part of that. State College. Calvary Elements. Shingletown Gap. Room 133 in White Building.

These are places. Locales. Physically defined walls and windows.  They do not replace the physical location that no longer can be home. I still grieve the yellow and red maple trees in the front yard of 518 Trail Road. I still grieve when I think of the day that Jesse found cancer in one of them, the same day that I really understood that some things fall apart and won't be remade.

Home isn't the same.

While the places I listed don't replace what I no longer have, they do remind me that there are good places and that home is a gift not confined to my birth family and "hometown". There are spaces that do indeed become reminders of belonging and relationship and purpose that the house I grew up in can no longer give.

Home is not just a physical place but a spiritual one. It is more than physical space but a constant presence that walks within and without. There are many theological words for this. For now, I'll leave say that home is a relationship, a walking with God. And this God turns the most unusual places and our own tendency towards habit into ways of comforting and settling.

Last week, Anjali was walking across campus towards her lab. She was lost in thought and discovered that she had walked into White Building and was about to open the door to the 133 ballroom. Amazing. We're habitual creatures and when we don't watch our feet, they go back to the rooms we have spent the most time, the walls that we're used to holding our stories. I like this about human beings. I like that we circle around places that remind us of who we are. I know this isn't a good thing all the time, but originally... it was.

As part of this loosing and finding and loosing and finding, I think I've become better at making space for others to find a home somewhere alongside me. A friend told me this past week that he appreciates coming to Whim Cotty because we're always talking, making food, doing chores around our guests feet, doing work, watching movies, teaching roommates to dance. And it's like home. I was glad to hear this, to know that Whim Cotty has been a good place for more than just me.

And I want to be better at this. I want to carry "home" around with me like I sometimes carry around hummus and crackers, ready to share at a moment's notice.


Annie said...

This is beautiful, Dana. And isn't home, our real home, His home? And when we carry home with us, we carry His Spirit, serving as His hands and feet to everyone we encounter. I want to carry home with me, too.

Anonymous said...

You write so beautifully! I completely agree. Reading some of your posts feels like "home" to me because it is as though I've been trying to grasp (for a while) the very think you just wrote. Reading these thoughts well articulated feels like coming home.

I think it was C.S. Lewis that said certain truths about religion and life--when told--don't feel new; instead they feel like something forgotten and than found. His point was that these truths are just that--things that already exist; things we know halfway, and so we feel comfortable when we find the idea, truth, or article of faith because we were missing it.