On land, or on the sea? On the hills, or in the valleys? Where is home? (Monterey Bay, California. Photo by Paul Henson 2015)
I used to think home was one place. Familiar. Comforting. Safe. Harking back to childhood memories. Attached to specific faces, people – family.
I was wrong.
It turns out home is many different places. It’s not always familiar. It can take us out of our comfort zones. Unsettling. It can be strange, foreign, new, terrifying. Still, it can be home.
Have you ever felt the need to break free? Moments you simply felt stunted, caged that you just wanted to create for yourself a new home?
Be careful what you wish for. Life is listening.
A window opens. Sometimes, a door. Slowly at first. Filtering in a little bit of light, a gentle breeze, through the cracks. Enticing. Newness beckons. Fresh, exhilarating, liberating.
A window opens. Sometimes, a door.
And sometimes – I suspect, oftentimes — the whole house comes crashing down. Torn apart. Blown away.
A flood of emotions: Anger, disbelief, grief, sadness, heartache, pain. More anger. A little regret. A little self-hate.
A deluge of questions: What just happened? Did I do something wrong? What was all this for?
You stumble through the debris. Lost, dazed, confused and frightened. Sometimes you try, but are just too paralyzed by fear.
Finding home even on the precipice. (Grand Canyon, Arizona. Photo by Paul Henson 2015)
Finding your way
But help comes when you need it most.
A word. A hand. A shared tear. They don’t take away the pain completely. But sharing it makes the load just a bit easier to bear.
And then amidst all that is frightening, unfamiliar, uncomfortable and painful – slowly – you discover that home is many different places.
Home is in the smile, the outstretched hand, of a new friend. The color of his or her eyes may be different but the tenderness is something you have felt before.
Home is in a song, a dance. The words, the steps, are new but the pull on your heartstrings (or hamstrings) transport you back to fond memories.
Home is in a meal. The flavors may be all new but the satisfaction and contentment in your heart and your belly are the same.
Sometimes, you retrace your steps to your old home. You see the old places, old people. Sometimes, the familiar brings you comfort. At other times it brings you discomfort. Either you’ve changed, and they haven’t. Or have they changed, and you’ve stayed the same? It doesn’t matter. There’s no right or wrong.
You look back. You look forward. You’re not quite sure what is ahead. But you feel the ground beneath you is solid and safe. You feel a quiet sense of accomplishment. You exhale. Your breath carried by the mist, the wind, into the sky, the sunlight.
Home is many different places. Sometimes – oftentimes, I suspect — the old one has to come crashing down, get torn apart, get blown away. Don’t worry. That home is not gone entirely. You just have to trust that you’re making way for something new.
Follow the author on Twitter @Paulhenson or Instagram @heaveninawildflower