Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Every Port, an Anchor

The cabin pressure makes a dramatic shift, and the precious cargo in the belly of the beast all feel a tension between their ears and their skull. They work their jaws, rub their temples. A barrier of clouds is noisily pierced by the nose, then the body, and finally the tail, and from out the window a new patchwork quilt of a world is revealed.

There is no substitute for this moment, when the body clenches in a spasm of uncertainty, anxiety, and every pore (real and imagined) gapes wide, waiting to see what is on the other side of this waiting. There is a world outside the reinforced glass and recycled air habitat that has housed us over the past however many hours, and every synapse is twitching with the promise of it.

But for a few hours, the tiny space on this vessel has held me comfortably, cradled my body as I’ve written, sketched, slept, and read. My shoes are tucked away, and I’m swaddled in my own wrap, a cashmere/silk stowaway adopted on some other continent. This seat has been a sort of home to me. There is a twinge of nostalgia as I gather my belongings, prepare to make a home in some other unfamiliar place.

A good friend once told me that he felt confident that I could fashion myself a home on the surface of the sun if I so desired. And there was truth in his compliment. Throughout childhood, my family moved from one rented house to another, occasionally crossing state lines, one circumstance or another guiding the course for the rest of us. Consequently, there is no ancestral home that stirs up a sensation of belonging in my breast. My sense of home is an oddly-shaped, distended thing.

Imagination and desire will erect strange monuments to normalcy when they feel deprived of it for too long, and so that is what happened. I developed a “home fixation,” a desire to put down roots somewhere solid, somewhere mine, somewhere safe.
I imagined, at 17, moving to Mexico, that I would find a home there.

I imagined that I would know it, a psychic thronging that would reverberate through my very soul, screaming “You’re Home!” at every turn. You can work yourself into a proper lather seeking this untenable seat amongst the chaotic shifting of sands that composes a world.

Something happened along the way, an unexpected and dear device probably borne of one survival instinct or another: my heart claimed the earth as its home.

The wet-pavement-come-alive smell of encroaching rain twists my cells into a peace that few other things can. The windows of the kitchen obscured by the moisture of a fresh loaf of bread baking. Rice paddies, challenging every other shade of green to a duel and winning, flickering through the bus windows. The spicy hints of sandalwood and bay rum, the sensation of my own breath ragged from exertion, the taste of a copper penny blooming in my mouth.

Home is not a place, never. It is a sensation of calm, of familiarity, and peace. It has nothing to do with what I own, those possessions that own me so utterly. Home is a flash of red earth, a familiar bird song, or a queue of sullen cows on a distant dirt road. Make a home on a motorcycle for a few months, and soon enough a stand of redwoods becomes home. Make a home out of a handbag and suitcase for long enough and eventually the rich cup of drip-brewed coffee at a ramshackle cafe will become home. Dip into a well of solitude for a seeming infinity of days, and a smile from a stranger who doesn’t share your language becomes home for a moment.

Home is anywhere but where my things live. This is just a station, on the way to the next place that makes my heart entire. This relic of a heart is more than just a metronome. It is a jigsaw puzzle that my movement through the rest of the world pieces together for me.


nicoolio said...

Suzanne once told me, after I'd moved to Germany, that home is soemthing you keep in your heart. It's yours to use wherever you choose.

Kathy Hernandez said...

I like your definition of home far better than mine. I've always said home is where the toothbrush is.