Ways of Getting Home

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There are two ways of getting home; and one of them is to stay there.
— G. K. Chesterton

 

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Home can seem elusive and just out of reach for much of our lives.  It may not feel we truly belong in any one place in this modern era of constant transitions and transfers.

In high school, I could not plan a get-away from my home town fast enough, opting to go to college two states away.  Once I was away, I was hopelessly home-and-heartsick.   Miserable, I decided to come back home and go to school there instead.

Once back under my parents’ roof, my homesickness abated but the heartsick continued, having nothing to do with where I ate and slept.  I wasn’t at home inside myself.   It took time and various attempts at geographic cures to settle in and accept who I always had been.

Those who do move away often cast aspersions at people who never wander far from home.  The homebodies are seen as provincial, stuck in a rut, unenlightened and hopelessly small-town.  Yet later in life as the wanderers have a tendency to move back home, the stay-at-homers become solid friends and neighbors.   Remarkably, they often have become the pillars and life blood of a community.  They have slogged through long hours of keeping a place going when others left.

I did end up doing my share of wandering yet sympathizing with those who decided to stay put.   I returned home by settling only a few miles from the stomping grounds of my homesteading great-grandparents, at once backwoods and backwater.   Cast aspersions welcomed.

Now I get back home by mostly staying home.  It takes something major (like a son teaching in Japan settled in for the long term with wife and daughter) to lure me away from my corner of the world.   Getting away is good, coming back home is better.

Best of all, it’s the assurance expressed so simply by Thomas Hardy in Far From the Madding Crowd,
“And at home, by the fire, whenever you look up, there I shall be–and whenever I look up, there will be you.”

Home so sweet.

 

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One Who Waits For Us

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When I was a child
I once sat sobbing on the floor
Beside my mother’s piano
As she played and sang
For there was in her singing
A shy yet solemn glory
My smallness could not hold

And when I was asked
Why I was crying
I had no words for it
I only shook my head
And went on crying

Why is it that music
At its most beautiful
Opens a wound in us
An ache a desolation
Deep as a homesickness
For some far-off
And half-forgotten country

I’ve never understood
Why this is so

But there’s an ancient legend
From the other side of the world
That gives away the secret
Of this mysterious sorrow

For centuries on centuries
We have been wandering
But we were made for Paradise
As deer for the forest

And when music comes to us
With its heavenly beauty
It brings us desolation
For when we hear it
We half remember
That lost native country

We dimly remember the fields
Their fragrant windswept clover
The birdsongs in the orchards
The wild white violets in the moss
By the transparent streams

And shining at the heart of it
Is the longed-for beauty
Of the One who waits for us
Who will always wait for us
In those radiant meadows

Yet also came to live with us
And wanders where we wander.
~Anne Porter “Music” from Living Things. © Zoland Books, 2006.

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One evening, when our daughter was only a toddler,
just learning the words to tell us what she needed,
I was preparing dinner, humming to
a choral music piece playing in the background.

She sat on the kitchen floor, looking up at me,
her eyes welling full with tears
like pools of reflected light spilling over
from some deep-remembered reservoir of sorrow.

At first I thought she was hurt or upset
but then could see she was feeling
an ache a desolation
deep as a homesickness
as she wept for wonder
at the sad beauty of the music
that spoke for her
the words she could not express:

Of the One who waits for us
Who will always wait for us
In those radiant meadows

Yet also came to live with us
And wanders where we wander.

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Sure on this shining night
Of star made shadows round,
Kindness must watch for me
This side the ground.
The late year lies down the north.
All is healed, all is health.
High summer holds the earth.
Hearts all whole.
Sure on this shining night
I weep for wonder wand’ring far
alone
Of shadows on the stars.

This To Come Back To

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He saw clearly how plain and simple – how narrow, even – it all was;
but clearly, too, how much it all meant to him,
and the special value of some such anchorage in one’s existence.
He did not at all want to abandon the new life and its splendid space
s,
to turn his back on sun and air and all they offered him
and creep home and stay there;
the upper world was all too strong,
it called to him still, even down there,
and he knew he must return to the larger stage.
But it was good to think he had this to come back to,
this place which was all his own,
these things which were so glad to see him again
and could always be counted upon for the same simple welcome.
~Kenneth Grahame, from Wind in the Willows about the Mole and his home at Mole End

 

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Homesick at Home

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Solastalgia–a pining for a lost environment or a state of homesickness when still at home.  This word is derived from solacium (“comfort”) and algia (“pain”) and coined by Professor Glenn Albrecht in Australia in his research in Environmental Studies.  He has been studying Australian farmers displaced by climate changes that have rendered their land and homes uninhabitable dust bowls.  Their despair is losing not just their livelihoods but more emphatically, the familiarity and solace of surroundings lasting for generations of family members.  They become lost souls at home.

It is easy to dismiss talk of “home”  in this modern day as sentimental hogwash.  When we can travel globally in a matter of hours and via computer can arrive in anyone’s backyard, living room or even bedroom, “home” seems an outmoded concept.

Yet human beings thrive on predictability, stability and familiarity.   When home no longer resembles home,  when the birds no longer sing as they once did, the native flowers no longer bloom, the trees no longer move in the breeze, where can we seek solace and comfort?

We are homesick right in our own back yards, if there is still a back yard left to dwell within.

As a child, one of my favorite books was Virginia Lee Burton’s “Little House”, written in 1942, about a cottage built sturdy out in the countryside to last for generations of one family.

The Little House by Virginia Burton
The Little House by Virginia Burton

” The Little House was very happy as she sat on the hill and watched the countryside around her.  She watched the sun rise in the morning and she watched the sun set in the evening.  Day followed day, each one a little different than the one before… but the Little House stayed just the same.”

As the years go by, more houses are built near by and then a town surrounds the cottage, and finally it is engulfed in the noisy, smelly, sooty, smoky city.

The Little House by Virginia Burton
The Little House by Virginia Burton

Eventually a great-granddaughter finds the Little House and moves it out far into the countryside to become “home” once again.

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Voltaire reminded us to cultivate our own garden and more recently, Joni Mitchell observed:  “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”   How many live somewhere that looks like it did 20, 60, 100 years ago?   How many would recognize our childhood homes if we drove by now?   How will our children remember “home”?

I have found one cure for solastalgia —  create home where you are and where your people might be for generations to come.  One of the most effective ways is to plant bulbs, bushes, flowers and trees.  Again and again.  This cure is as old as Johnny and his appleseeds or the French fable “The Man Who Planted Trees” about the shepherd who restored an entire valley by planting acorns.

It has to do with restoring life on the land.  Home is more than just the boards and doors and windows and fireplaces.  It is the earth we steward and the care we provide.

Solace is available for the homesick because of the capability of our hands and hearts.

The Man Who Planted Trees:

Awaiting His Arrival: From Homeless to Gathered

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Thank you, Pastor Bert, for your sermon yesterday at Wiser Lake Chapel on this Advent passage:

The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.
I will rescue the lame;
    I will gather the exiles.
I will give them praise and honor
    in every land where they have suffered shame.
At that time I will gather you;
    at that time I will bring you home.
Zephaniah 3: 17, 19-20

There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home.

For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay on their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done.

A Child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;

To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home.
~G.K. Chesterton from “The House of Christmas”

 

Though you are homeless
Though you’re alone
I will be your home
Whatever’s the matter
Whatever’s been done
I will be your home

In this fearful fallen place
I will be your home
When time reaches fullness
When I move my hand
I will bring you home
Home to your own place
In a beautiful land

From this fearful fallen place
I will bring you home
I will bring you home
~Michael Card “I Will Bring You Home”

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Getting Home

photo of Whatcom County barn by Josh Scholten

“There are two ways of getting home; and one of them is to stay there.”
— G. K. Chesterton

Home can seem elusive and just out of reach for much of our lives.  It may not feel we truly belong in any one place in this modern era of constant transitions and transfers.

In high school, I could not plan a get-away from my home town fast enough, opting to go to college two states away.  Once I was away, I was hopelessly home-and-heartsick.   Miserable, I decided to come back home and go to school there instead.

Once back under my parents’ roof, my homesickness abated but the heartsick continued, having nothing to do with where I ate and slept.  I wasn’t at home inside myself.   It took time and various attempts at geographic cures to settle in and accept who I always had been.

Those who do move away often cast aspersions at people who never wander far from home.  The homebodies are seen as provincial, stuck in a rut, unenlightened and hopelessly small-town.  Yet later in life as the wanderers have a tendency to move back home, the stay-at-homers become solid friends and neighbors.   Remarkably, they often have become the pillars and life blood of a community.  They have slogged through long hours of keeping a place going when others left.

I did end up doing my share of wandering yet sympathizing with those who decided to stay put.   I returned home by settling only a few miles from the stomping grounds of my homesteading great-grandparents, at once backwoods and backwater.   Cast aspersions welcomed.

Now I get back home by mostly staying home.  It takes something major (like a son teaching in Japan) to lure me away from my corner of the world.   Getting away is good, coming back home is better.

Best of all, it’s the assurance expressed so simply by Thomas Hardy in Far From the Madding Crowd,
“And at home, by the fire, whenever you look up, there I shall be–and whenever I look up, there will be you.”

Home so sweet.

photo by Josh Scholten