“The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” – Maya Angelou
All five of us were in the living room. Well six, if you count little sis who we’ve yet to name. It was mid Saturday morning, early enough for us to be thumbing through Off Duty section of the Wall Street Journal, a ritual Andrew and I started many moons ago and now do just as regularly as as making coffee and saying “in circles” to our babies after we tuck them into bed each night. It’s a slow way to begin our weekend together, with something to sip and something read, a part of our rhythm that gives us much more than a chance to catch up world events outside of screens, but gift of being physically near while our kids play around and almost always on us. The paper is the oar that gets us where we need to be, the boat our living room, and our being there, tuning in, taking breaks to talk, to rub backs, to observe, to connect – the act of rowing.
I was sunk in the back of our blue velvet chairs that I’ve wrapped well with ticking wingback slipcovers, family heirlooms I am trying by best while raising rowdy young ones, to protect and preserve. Our home is rather lived in, and I love that. But if I can keep these chairs from falling apart I’ll be quite glad. Stella wandered over t0 me as I rubbed my belly with one hand, coffee in the other, and leaned on the walnut table near the arm of the chair, the paper now draped over my legs like a soft quilt, and asked nonchalantly, “Where was my first home?”
I took a long sip and in my mind traced the road map of her life, from this home, to another, and to that one. From the time we made her room in the little condo on Wyandotte, to the nursery she barely used because we kept her in our bed on 4646. “Well, I told her. I suppose it would be the one on the Plaza, right Andrew? Your first home.” Listening to our conversation, Andrew bent the paper forward and nodded, “Yeah, but technically our first home in Kansas City was your first home, too.” This was the home we moved into when we moved away from ours in Iowa, when we made a new unfamiliar state our new place of belonging. It was also the home that nurtured me as I grew our first baby and we our marriage. Our first real nest as a family. You could tell her wheels were spinning, and then she said assertively, making more of a statement rather than asking a question, “But what about me? My body? Wasn’t that my real first home?”
The paper fell again. I as a mom had one of those, is this really happening moments and I looked over to see if Andrew had heard. Children know. They are born knowing, I am convinced of this, of the simple truths that we as adults muddy up and over-complicate as we try our best to understand, fit in, and forge our path forward in life. They are able to see beyond many veils, to voice with bold innocence the way things are. We experienced this again this past summer in France, when soon after I woke up one morning and made my way to the living room Alfie came running up to my flat belly and said with stone-faced confidence, “There is baby in your belly.” I couldn’t and didn’t know it at the time, but he was right. I had just gotten pregnant. Children know.
“Yes,” I respond to Stella after taking a moment to collect my thoughts. “You are so right. I guess I haven’t thought of that before, but it’s true. We first belong to ourselves, don’t we?” Our bodies, I explained, are the homes that we’ve given to help us use our gifts. And our souls the home within that home, the inner space we must learn to listen to and connect with so we can better hear and understand those gifts. We talk a lot about souls in our house, and seasons and gifts and what feels like connect to both.
Home is much more than thing you can hold or a place you can go, but a feeling. It’s a invisible world within; a sanctuary filled with spirited song that radiates to the rest of the world like sunbeams when you hold space and make time to sing it. Maya Angelou wrote in Letter to My Daughter, “We may act sophisticated and worldly but I believe we feel safest when we go inside ourselves and find home, a place where we belong and maybe the only place we really do.” So then what more is home than feeling ourselves, of believing we are worthy, and living our belonging. I Stella that we must hold tight the things that feel like home. That we must remember those things and return to them often because like lighthouses on the darkest of nights, we need them to find our way. When we are children these things come naturally to us. They find us, singing their song, and we welcome them in and sing along. We let our inhibitions and fears fly to the wind, and we lean into that feeling, whether it’s when we’re daydreaming on the tree swing, absorbed in playing dinosaurs, or immersed in the world of imaginary restaurant.
Journal Question | Take some time to reflect on all the things that feel like home to you. What are they? When did you last experience them? Make a list in your journal and let the paper capture whatever your pen traces. Don’t get tangled up in the net of expectations, share what truly makes you feel as though you belong in the world and connected to something greater. You can write in paragraph form or make a list.
Here are few of mine:
- Waking up early before the sun, before my family, with warm coffee made just right and something contemplative to read by myself.
- Taking three deep inhales, filling up my lungs with air, and slowly letting that air out, feeling my belly rise and fall.
- Looking up at the dark night sky covered with a blanket of stars – finding familiar constellations from my childhood, remembering how small I am in this vast universe.
- Sweating during a hard yoga pose in a dimly lit room, firm yet trembling on my mat.
- Starting a movie or show late at night with Andrew and quickly pausing it to talk for hours instead.
- Getting new school supplies, which now equate to work supplies: i.e. good pens and notebooks.
- Writing and letting my words flow freely onto the page.
- Weeding the garden.
- Adding essential oils to my evening salt bath or beauty rituals.
- Listening to and smelling spring rain when the ground begins to thaw and the muddy earth opens up.
- Making a simple, seasonal meal with food we’ve grown and picked, or from the local farmer’s market. Music on. A glass of wine nearby.
- Getting a deep massage.
- Watching my kids play in their imaginative worlds with my phone out of sight and reach.
- Lighting a candle for a bath, a meal, or to read by.
- Rearranging a room with things we already own and experiencing the refreshing energy that goes along with such a shift.
- When I read a quote that feels as though it’s been written and sent to me for that exact moment in time.
- Thinking about my childhood spent in the field behind our home, picking mulberries, gathering milkweed, and making forts in the bramble.
- Picking wildflowers and setting them by my bed.
- Simplifying and organizing an area of our home to make it more functional and beautiful.
- Playing a song I need to hear in that moment and letting myself get swept away by it’s rhythm.
As you can see, many of the things that make me feel like home are small. Many of them are in conversation with the natural world. And many of them are easily accessible. They simply take a mixture of intention and attention, the two things that when shaken together offer us a way to see our lives with greater clarity and meaning.
I am guessing that if you are on this retreat, and that if you are craving rest or a withdrawal from the hum of life as it was, that you are a little (or perhaps a lot) homesick for some of those things you’ve written about or listed. When was the last time you did any of these things you listed in your journal? Not thought about doing them, but actually did them? Have you ever crafted your daily or weekly or seasonal rhythm to include any of them regularly? Or do you toss them aside in the category of “One of these days I’m gonna…” and resent anything that gets in the way? It’s not too difficult to ponder and list those inner stirrings that feel like home, but getting there, that’s am entirely different story. Especially in the thick of parenthood when time is not your own.
Your Weekly Practice
Instead of giving you material to listen to, read, or watch this week, which I promise will come, I want you to focus on your inner home and that feeling of belonging to yourself. Go back to your childhood, when you played often with this interior landscape. Use the time away from social media to fill your days with some of these actions that take you back, and allow the silence away from digs and distractions to help get you there. Try picking two or three off your list and fold them into your rhythm this week. Write about them in depth, why they are home to you, and how you feel both before and after doing them. What does returning home do for the vitality of your soul? Say no to something this week, and instead fill with with a return home. Perhaps it’s as simple as making time for a cup of tea in the darkness of the morning or taking a bath. Hold space for some of these things this week as we retreat and allow each homecoming to wash over you, renewing your energy and restoring your spirit.
“To feel as if you belong is one of the great triumphs of human existence — and especially to sustain a life of belonging and to invite others into that… But it’s interesting to think that … our sense of slight woundedness around not belonging is actually one of our core competencies; that though the crow is just itself and the stone is just itself and the mountain is just itself, and the cloud, and the sky is just itself — we are the one part of creation that knows what it’s like to live in exile, and that the ability to turn your face towards home is one of the great human endeavors and the great human stories.
It’s interesting to think that no matter how far you are from yourself, no matter how exiled you feel from your contribution to the rest of the world or to society — that, as a human being, all you have to do is enumerate exactly the way you don’t feel at home in the world — to say exactly how you don’t belong — and the moment you’ve uttered the exact dimensionality of your exile, you’re already taking the path back to the way, back to the place you should be. You’re already on your way home.” – David Whyte