At long last, we have had a full day of sun here near Limerick, in Ireland, and I was outside in it working all day! It was truly wonderful. There are few things I cherish more than pleasant, bright, late-spring days. They remind me of my old home, when this time of year the trees would be forcing leaves out of their branches like handkerchiefs protruding from a pocket, and I’d almost be able to hear the blood running, singing in their veins like the whoosh of the wind, or the shouting of a narrowed creek. It feels like everything has started dancing with the glee of summertime, and the bushes are shaking their flounces of flowers, and the hedges are coloring with the blush of discovery, and everywhere the grass purrs noisily in the heat. Here in Ireland, on a sunny day in May, the gorse breathes a coconut breath, and the wild chamomile perspires in the sun, and the world is alive with sweet smells and joyful colors. It makes me pleasantly homesick, first for Colorado, second for Bere Island.
Yesterday, I was having breakfast, chatting with the other volunteer here, and we were talking about home. We’re both a little displaced, and neither of us quite feel that we have a place we know is Home, and so we were having a little gripe-fest about how much we wish we did. And in among all the sorrows, Johanna very casually dropped me a hint as to what it is that goes into making a place feel like Home: she said simply, “I just want a place where I don’t feel like a guest.”
When she said that, it was like the clear and bone-shattering clang of a bell in my ear. A big bell.
I’ve spent a lot of time travelling – practically all of 2013, certainly, I’ve drifted homeless through the world. But what about before that? I rented homes and lived every day with a kitchen and four neat walls (if not an equally neat floor) and good people. Literally nothing to complain about. But complain I did: somehow, it didn’t feel like home.
Note: I am editing this with some hindsight, in January of 2015. It is difficult to say, exactly, what makes places start feeling like they’re home. I certainly wasn’t a guest when I lived in Vancouver – but what I was (and am, still) was young. I’d spent my whole life in a home that was created by other people, and which I had taken for granted, and I had never noticed that it takes time to figure out how to make a place, in one’s mind, home.
Part of it is deciding that somewhere is home, usually before you get there, or accepting that somewhere is home. Part of it really and truly is about it being the right place for whoever it is you are at a given moment – and, to go with that, part of it is habit of thought: when you decide something about a place, that’s that. And part of it is being grown up and out of the house long enough to feel like you yourself are your own home. That’s it, really.