As the holiday break comes to a close and I find myself back in New York, I can’t help but think of the home places that have come and gone in my life. These places are not so much the physical locations themselves but the people I encountered, loved, and lived with in these places. I think of Greencastle, PA where I grew up and where my family resides. I think of Harrisonburg, VA where I went to college and where many of my friends reside. I think of D.C. where I spent a semester of college. And now I think of New York City where I currently live. Each of these places is vastly different from the next yet each provides a deep sense of home and longing within me.
I was given this advice when I moved to New York: Live like you are never going to leave. This a surprisingly treacherous task, one that I liken to falling in love. Attaching oneself to a place with such abandon can be thrilling but it also poses great risks such as loving too hard or suffering the heartbreak of leaving. But I find that I would much rather experience the heartache that comes with discovering and leaving a dear home place than to not experience one at all.
David James Duncan describes this loving and leaving in “My Story as Told by Water:
“…One of the harsh but deep consolations of watching a loved home place slip away from you is that, without the loved home, you’re suddenly naked enough to feel the blood, begging direction. To feel that inner begging: to me, that’s being home (emphasis added).”
Now far be it from me to place an interpretation on David James Duncan, but this quote evokes a feeling that both terrifies and excites me for I realize that I can be at home anywhere. The beauty of being home is not found in a place but in our ability to adapt, to find a sense of home within ourselves, no matter where we are geographically located. It is found in the inner longings, the hidden aspirations, and deep desires of our souls. It is found in each other. And this type of home place is one we will never have to leave.
While the physical act of leaving a physical home place is still a raw and difficult experience for me, I’m trying to see home as being more than physical or geographical. I’ve heard it said (probably in a sappy romance film) that the eyes are the windows to the soul. It that’s true, then the eyes are the compass that leads us home. The musician Ben Harper sings, “You look like home to me,” and I couldn’t agree more. A true home place is looking into the eyes of another and, in that moment, being home.