The novel I’m working on is about an itinerant Maya storyteller who, having been cast out from his home, is on a quest to find his rightful place in the world. At a recent gathering of two families, when my daughter made a reference to her “home” at the dinner table I had a moment of wondering whether she was referring to her home with us, her parents, or her current home two hours away from us. After clarifying, I asked “What do you think of, when you think of home?” This question sparked a fascinating discussion and conversations that continued.
What do you think of, when you think of home? Is it the people, place or circumstances? All of these? Around our table, one of the responses was, “I think of my college years. That was when I was happiest.”
What is the experience of being at home or feeling “at home?” When I was working on projects that involved frequent trips to both coasts, I felt so at home with the people I was working with I regarded them more as friends than colleagues. Having shared interests and goals was a factor. So also was resonance. But I would not have chosen to live with those people. On the other side of the coin, when I visited Palenque, a Maya site in Chiapas, Mexico, I felt so comfortable sitting on the steps of a temple there, I had the feeling that I was at home. I didn’t know anyone, but I felt like I could have stayed there the rest of my life.
When were you most at home? I expected those around our dinner table to cite their present dwelling place. Not so. It took me several moments to discover the answer for myself—that where I live now is home. It’s where I feel most at home. If your current dwelling place is not home, is there anything or anyone that would make it so? I think most of us would agree with the adage that “a house does not a home make.” I wonder about people who have multiple homes. Are they equally at home in all of them? The notion of home as a quality of being is a curiously complex phenomenon.
What qualities and characteristics are essential for you to consider a place home? Location? Type of dwelling? For instance, could you consider yourself at home in a condo or apartment? If so, what would be necessary? If not, why not? And in your current dwelling place, what and how much could you eliminate and still feel that you are home? Now, pare down these qualities and items so only the absolute essentials remain. Write them down. And then ask what it is that these provide. Be brutally honest. For instance, cameras and a darkroom are on my list. Without them, I wouldn’t feel at home. I’d have to acquire them all over again in order to feel at home. The Buddhists would call this “clinging,” but the truth is the truth. When I asked myself what photographic equipment provides, the answer came quickly—the capacity to understand and express myself in order to better fulfill my purpose.
Are you at home in your skin? I like this question because it points to our dual nature—body and spirit or soul, whatever we choose to call it. “Am I at home in my body?” elicits the question, Who is the “I” who is asking? Am I comfortable with what I see and how I feel? How can I change these—if that’s desirable or possible. If not, might acceptance or forgiveness tilt the scale toward increased satisfaction?
What does it mean to be at home? The protagonist in my novel discovers that home is a personal construction requiring both inner and outer resources. Before he can come to that place, he has to know who he is. From a physical standpoint, the nest in this image is a composite of elements from the environment—like furniture—that are suited to warmth and protection. Certainly these are components for us as well. Might we also consider that, given our composite nature, the place we call “home” includes emotional and psychological environments that are conducive to comfortable living and peace of mind. Or is home just where we have our stuff? Or where we live with our significant others? It has been said that “Home is where the heart is.” For me, qualifying further, home is the context within which I can most be myself and work toward becoming my better self. I’m reminded of last week’s posting, the full image of an egg. Within it, there is nourishment, safety, comfort, connection and the development of potential.
If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.
About This Image
Title: Robin’s Nest
File #: 499-C1
Linda discovered this nest in the back yard. I took it inside, placed it on the camera stand and photographed it against a black background. The eggs are situated as they were found.