“Home is not where you have to go but where you want to go; nor is it a place where you are sullenly admitted, but rather where you are welcomed – by the people, the walls, the tiles on the floor, the followers beside the door, the play of life, the very grass.” – Scott Russell Sanders
Last Sunday, Bill and I returned from a trip to Niagara-On-The-Lake, in Ontario, Canada. It is one of my favorite places to sneak away to. It’s a beautiful small town on the western shore of Lake Ontario, which hosts the George Bernard Shaw Festival every summer, and is also home to over twenty vineyards, where you can spend your days tasting superb wines. This was only our second trip to this outstanding community, but it’s beginning to look like it could become an annual late summer destination for us.
We spent four nights at Brockamour Manor, a sweet B & B, where I’ve always felt pampered. Having launched my gluten-free diet on the day we arrived, Colleen and Rick, the owners, quickly made adjustments to the breakfast menu for me, providing me with gluten-free toast to go with their delicious eggy dishes. On the morning they served pancakes, Colleen made gluten-free ones for me, topped with crushed strawberries and some maple syrup. This is the only B & B to my knowledge where you’ll get dessert for breakfast. My favorite is a rainbow sorbet pie, with a nut crust. I plan on making that one here at home next time we invite friends for dinner. Fresh local peaches still in season, were served other mornings in a variety of ways.
We saw four shows at the Shaw Festival. My favorite was, A Man and Some Women, by British Playwright, Githa Sowerly. We also saw the musical, Ragtime (fantastically great), Shaw’s own, Misalliance, and Ibsen’s, Hedda Gabler. You can read Bill’s reviews on his blog, View in the Dark. We also had time and space to work a bit on our own writing projects, sip wine, take naps, go on morning walks, and enjoy well prepared food. No stress. Just relaxation. My favorite kind of vacation. I felt very much at home there.
What is home exactly? For me, home has always been the place where I eat my meals, sleep, work, and share space with the people I love. Having lived in at least eight different homes by the time I was thirteen, home was where ever we happened to be. I found moving extremely difficult. It meant a new school and making new friends. It meant I had to figure out where I was and how to maneuver in a whole new world.
My favorite home of all time, is the one I am in right now, in Charlottesville, Virginia. I’ve lived in this area since 1985, but have lived in three different houses. Each one was always perfect for us at the time, but as the years passed our needs changed. This last move, two years ago, was to downsize and place us in town within closer proximity to entertainment, healthcare facilities, and community.
I guess I’ve never stopped moving. As adults, we’ve moved as a way to shake things up in our lives as we’ve searched for our own end of the rainbow. Perhaps when you continuously move from location to location, it simply becomes what you do. It becomes your habit.
One of the things on my life long wish list has been to “feel at home” in the world, no matter where I find myself. But I’m beginning to understand and accept that it’s a wish that I will never fulfill. I visit New York City, several times a year, but I rarely, if ever feel at home there. For one thing, there are too many people to share a relatively small amount of space with. It is difficult for me sharing the sidewalks on Fifth Avenue around four o’clock in the afternoon when everyone in the city is on their way home from work. There is also too much noise, and the energy level in the city is way over the top. I can comfortably stay four nights without losing myself, but after that, my nerves begin to rattle and I get anxious. Being an introvert, arriving home to the peace and quiet of this town in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, is my reward for stepping out into the great big crazy world.
Big cities of any kind are not as inviting to me as places where I can connect to the natural rhythms of the earth. I love being by the sea, watching and listening as the ocean pounds the shore. The air smells and tastes salty. There are magnificent birds to watch as they make their living along the beach. And walking barefoot in the sand is one of the most healing things I’ve ever experienced. I almost always feel at home there.
Next month I will be taking my mother’s ashes, “home,” to Long Island. She was born there, and though she spent much of her youth in trauma ridden situations, it’s also where I believe she spent her happiest moments. Though as a family we moved from there to Vermont in 1960, she felt restless in New England and went back to the Island frequently to spend time with old friends and family. When she moved here to Virginia after my father died, it was to be close to me and my family. She liked it here, but it wasn’t home for her. Had she been healthier and younger, I know she would have moved back to Long Island in a heartbeat.
It will be a homecoming of sorts for me as well, as I was also born and raised on the Island. I’ve been back to visit once before and I love stopping to see the houses I once lived in and the schools I went to. But I love where I am right now and I consider this to be my home of choice.
What does home mean to you? Would you feel at home anywhere in the world? What do you love most about being home?