this must be the place

Home (is where I want to be) from crossing zones and oceans. The first pot of coffee is percolating, the laundry is sloshing about, and the mail has been sorted.

Home was briefly in Paris, Honfleur, Dinan, and London. Home was briefly borrowed from others. Home was briefly without the daily amenities but with new ones, namely croissants, museums, and a cacophony of languages and accents.

In the dark last night as I settled my bones into my blessedly familiar bed–a return to the womb of sorts, I spoke out loud the gratitude for this trip:  gratitude for the resources to make it possible, to those who nourished the home front, for the sweet time with my daughter and her willingness to share these fleeting weeks before she leaves, for everyone who helped us along the way–giving directions, recommending places, cooking and cleaning, for the fuel we consumed and will try to offset.

Gratitude is the ground of travel, not ‘fun.’ We leave in order to be in the midst of others, our empathy muscle getting a much needed workout for when we return and read about others in the news and try to imagine their lives, their faces, their eyes. We leave in order to interact with the past and listen to its stories of loss and knowledge more loudly than the whispers provided by books and the Internet. We leave in order to be in the midst of trees and flowers with different names, soil of a different hue, and birds with feathers that are new to us.

We leave in order to remember how it feels to come home.

So much of the time in France, we drove through corn, which was funny because we’re always driving through corn here in Iowa. But there, the fields are rung in trees and high bushes; the fields are more like cozy patios of green than endless big box stores of never ending plant life. It was home with an accent, home through that new set of lenses the optometrist offers. Corn but not corn.

I woke up at 3 AM today — 9 AM in western Europe — and could feel myself falling into the quicksand of anxiety, much like the dangerous stuff we’d read about on the beaches of Mont St. Michel. Graduation:  over. This trip, so long planned: over. My house, which I sense in my gut I am ready to leave, was quiet as I tried to hold on to the ground and not fall into the hole. I fell back asleep and awoke with energy and gladness.

Home, is where I want to be
But I guess I’m already there
I come home, she lifted up her wings
I guess that this must be the place. – David Byrne

Curled up on one of the borrowed beds in London with Kathryn having our “John and Yoko moment”, we talked about being alone. One must really be alone, fully alone, to truly understand oneself, she said. My heart pulsated with knowing this is true, and yet it’s also the Truth that had me falling into quicksand at 3 AM.

Unspooling into being alone has been happening since last summer. At first, it was pure Terror. Then it turned to a dull sadness. I no longer come home to a familiar face, or have someone to text updates to when I travel. There are reminders, many so small and so fleeting and yet gut-punching, that I am alone.

But there is an unexpected and parallel pleasure in this, a sense of arriving at the place I know that I am supposed to be right this minute in life. A sense of moving into the home of me.

I guess, this indeed must be the place.