On and on we live, some of us, rootless and dispossessed for so long that ‘home’ starts to feel like a quaint, bookish notion, a concept not meant to apply to us, a place so unplaced that we never near it except as mirage. A wide shimmering sea on the desert, ever retreating, ever grinning at our needs and pointing out that heading seaward ain’t really the hot ticket it seems: staying put with a small patch of shade, a tall glass of cool water, a slight wily breeze, and enough good sense to pursue indolence in the middle of the day? Is.
And then we get lucky and find not one home, but more, in the circling returns that some of us must go through to get across our decades. This has happened to me. The Mojave Desert is always home (esp. its lightly inhabited corners). Mississippi, the land of my birth and coming of age, is always home, too, but only because I’m stubborn and insist upon it, for the land there keens and I, knowing too much of the waters that have gone beneath our bridges, keen right along with it, to the very bone, and thus feel out of step more often than not. The Kalahari and Namib and Tanami Deserts or Paris (France) could so easily be home, too, but I do not belong to them in any ready way. But there’s a tiny midwestern village that reached out and called me neighbor a long time ago and, perhaps more than anyplace I have ever been, has taught me that this concept of ‘home’ has depths that shimmer and do not retreat.
Home is a place where you get to participate, contribute, inhabit your flaws, and wear your faded old work clothes to town. Home is a place where somebody knows your name and lights up when you show up and is sad when you go. Home is a place where you’re missed when you’re gone and hugged when you return. Home is a place where we take care of one another whether we deserve it or not and where we all try to pitch in to make something everybody can be proud of and enjoy. Home is a place where people find the time to be kind, to gossip (a little), to give (a lot), to dream and to work and to be. Home, it turns out, is a place, not a concept at all. Home is a place in our hearts.