I've been consuming books at a rate I haven't in some time. I mark this down to my life at the moment, which has been unexpectedly nutty. I have had to leave a home I did not expect to leave to get out of a crazy situation I did not create. I am now in another place and exploring still other places.
When you leave a home you felt certain (oh how silly, that certainty) would be akin to a forever home and you shed all your things in search of a new home, you begin to change your relationship to the concept of home. What it means, what it came to mean though perhaps it should not have, what a new home in a new place might look like, what being home within yourself means so that an external home and all its outward trappings comes to mean so much less.
You also examine your relationship to place. Where you've been, what feels familiar, what is perhaps too familiar and your routines have become so routine you overlook daily magic. Where you've not been, what remains unexplored, what a new place might mean for seeing things in a new (better?) way.
All this exploration is not complete without asking the obvious question: who am I in each place? who do i hope to become regardless of place? are there certain places that might faciliate that more than others?
Finally, I've been toying with the idea that so much in life is transitory, ephemeral, not to be counted on. So what is it we can hold on to? What is the thing for each of us that makes us feel at home in the world wherever we happen to be in the world, even if the sand shifts beneath our feet regularly and we find ourselves in new circumstances more frequently than we'd planned?
Cheesy as it sounds, books are that thing for me. Stories are my home no matter what home I'm in. No matter what place I'm in. Whether I begin the day in one place and end it in another, wearing the same thing I did yesterday (and maybe the day before.) It is the dialogue I have with writers as a reader, it is the dialogue I have with place as I read.
It is also a lot of other things I'm mulling over, linking up, stitching together. There's more work to be done here, for sure. But I've been making notes along these lines for weeks.
So imagine my immediate kinship with Rebecca Solnit when I stumbled upon this passage last night, mere hours after holding court to my husband and dogs and the sparkling night sky about this very thing:
"I talked about places, about the ways that we often talk about love of place, by which we mean our love for places, but seldom of how the places love us back, of what they give us. They give us continuity, something to return to, and offer a familiarity that allows some portion of our own lives to remain connected and coherent. They give us an expansive scale in which our troubles are set into context, in which the largeness of the world is a balm to loss, trouble, and ugliness. And distant places give us refuge in territories where our own histories aren't so deeply entrenched and we can imagine other stories, other selves, or just drink up quiet and respite.
The bigness of the world is redemption. Despair compresses you into a small space, and a depression is literally a hollow in the ground. To dig deeper into the self, to go underground, is sometimes necessary, but so is the other route of getting out of yourself, into the larger world, into the openness in which you need not clutch your story and your troubles so tightly to your chest. Being able to travel both ways matters, and sometimes the way back into the heart of the question begins by going outward and beyond. This is the expansiveness that sometimes comes literally in a landscape or that tugs you out of yourself in a story."
-Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby
Rebecca, of course, nails it in a way I could not. I'm only a few chapters into her book, but my goodness is her writing beautiful. More soon. From whatever place or space or story I find myself in next.