It’s been a little while since my last update, so let me catch you up.
- What I’ve been Reading: I am keeping busy offline, trying to match my reading pace with the rate I’ve been collecting books from little-free-libraries around town. These have consisted mostly of more short story collections, including old SFF treasures like The Many Worlds of Andre Norton (by Andre Norton of course) and new SFF gems like How Long ’til Black Future Month? (by N.K. Jemisin) as well as some of the non-fiction variety like Henry and June (the diary of the incomparable Anaïs Nin).
- What I’ve been Writing: Despite accomplishing huge leaps and bounds with my online research as a writer and a writer of specific genres, I had to spend a few months completing an online math course (yes, dreadful, I know!) for a credit requirement that I hope will qualify me into teacher’s college someday soon. Since passing that (yay!), I’ve made some serious headway on one of my novel-in-progress, which I had been referring to as Animals but have since begun calling Woods. I am thick into the world-building as well as the scene-ordering, so I expect to be completing draft number two before the end of this calendar year.
- What I’ve been Watching: With travel on an indefinite hiatus, I’ve found some relief in the form of binging seasons of The Amazing Race. The U.S. version started in 2001 (imagine, travelling pre-9/11 and pre-pandemic!) but I skipped to season 5 which so far has been mostly entertaining. I’ve already finished the 7 seasons of the Canada version, which was actually more enjoyable (beginning after 2010) maybe because with a lower budget the contestants travel more locally – including my home town!
Speaking of my home town, let’s get on with the main event, shall we?
I had been working through a lot of personal stuff this year, even before ‘social distancing’ became a household term, but eventually events in 2020 forced me to go back home.
Of course, many people have had to do likewise (or tried to anyway) in moving back and many more never left their home in the first place.
But for me, coming back home has been… unexpected.
I say unexpected because some of my favourite stories growing up related returning home to be a happy ending resolution: from Gulliver’s travelling to Bilbo’s there-and-back-again, coming home was the natural full-circle, inevitable and appropriate.
It is having your cake and eating it too, getting to enjoy both strange adventures abroad while still being back by dinnertime.
The heroines travel somewhere new and surreal, but ultimately always return (usually with a new appreciation for their home).
Dorothy is a most classic example, who by The End somehow still chooses to leave emerald cities and talking friendly lions for her familiar “no place like home” of a colourless dustbowl farm with nasty dog-killing neighbours, inside tornado alley and during the depression-era, no less!
So why don’t I feel the same way, being back home?
Because ‘home’, for a significant portion of life, was a large redbrick house, with my two parents and four siblings and many different pets, out in the country surrounded by lots of tall green trees and cornfields in every direction.
The sense of comfort I found in this familiarity eventually turned to a need for escape – to leave and wander searching for things, people, ideas that I hadn’t found before, not yet knowing what that might be or how I would know it when I came to it.
This vague destination perhaps can explain my varied direction over the years, pursuing a sense of purpose first in fundamental religious beliefs and then swinging to passionate anti-religious beliefs. Likewise, I travelled far into the realm of school degrees and job titles before also trying community activism and social media to validate my path.
As I’ve remarked in previous posts, it has taken some effort on my part to make peace with leaving behind the ways I saw myself and the world. I not only felt embarrassed to have wasted years in those pursuits, but I also had so much regret for just how earnestly I chased after each destination before eventually arriving at its dead-end.
If nothing else, didn’t each wrong turn reveal that I will go off-course again in my life?
Well, as I’ve also written about in previous posts, I have been actively putting less effort into labelling where I am going or where I am coming from. Instead, I am trying to make my peace with where I am now and how I proceed ahead, day by day. This requires a great deal of forgiveness and patience – towards myself and others. Naturally, this has carried over into my understandings of the ‘home’ I left long ago and how impossible it seems to return to something so simple and sublime.
An illustrative example of this perspective is the British series 7 Up, documenting a dozen kids via interviews every seven years. Not only is it fascinating to see people age, but to see the ways in which our opinions and personality change over a lifetime.
And in talking on this very subject, one of the participants, Neil, commented:
“I was just sunbathing and a butterfly landed quite close to me.
It had beautiful wings, with deep red colors, and white sort-of circles on them…
These creatures don’t last very long. But it landed very close to me, it didn’t seem frightened. It just seemed delighted opening and closing its wings, and just actually being beautiful for that period of time, enjoying the sunshine.
Perhaps there isn’t actually any more to life than that, and just being what you are.
You must realize that life goes all around, and there are millions of other creatures who must find their parts as well.”
And I really appreciate his sentiment – that life goes where it goes, and we are all trying to find a part to play in it along the way. It feels like the most accurate depiction of life as I know it now, including the significant disparities found when relating to my past selves.
And it reminds me of the Ship of Theseus – questioning whether something is still that same thing if it slowly changes over time – which I think can apply to ourselves:
- Am I still myself if, over the course of a decade, I abandon every core belief and assumption that I once carried?
- Is there still a place like home, with all its nostalgia and naivete, in a static location that could never mean the same to me from the very first second it was left behind?
In the same ways that how you describe someone else is more revealing about yourself than that someone, so it goes with how we describe our home.
Depending on timing, context and mood, ‘home’ might be defined as a literal house. Then again, it could be wherever any certain special someone(s) reside. And home might just be a line in the sand where people look, talk and think a certain way. Just as well, some of us never felt safe at ‘home’ or never had an opportunity to build a healthy stable relationship with one place in particular.
Whatever the case, where we go from there, out into the wider world, will determine how we feel going back to where we started, where we were born or where we grew up.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Which brings me to my conclusion of why I don’t find I feel the same back at ‘home’ because I’ve realized the significance of home is something found in the journey itself.
Home is relative to everywhere else you have been.
Home is relative to everyone you have met.
Home is relative to everything you have found, endured, overcome.
Just as simple as life going where it goes, finding your way through life is as much about coming back to where you began as it is about learning to let go of ever truly returning.
And just like Scarecrow asking why that couldn’t be explained to us from the start, Glinda the Good Witch answers: “She wouldn’t have believed me. She had to learn it for herself.“
Home for Dorothy was a place and time she chose deliberately after the lessons learned in Oz – making friends, fighting witches and learning lessons from wizards.
Home for me, however, seems to be found in still following that yellow-brick road, where I can continue to wander and get lost and accept all of it as part of my story, one that has not yet ended because I am still yearning for more.
And for you, dear reader?
Home can be Kansas, Oz and anywhere in-between.
But don’t take my word for it – you’ll have to learn it for yourself!
As always, thanks for reading,