Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Home….the four letter word stuffed with so much meaning it looks like an ‘after’ photo in one of those flex trash bag commercials. It can be as simple as a shelter, as complex as love. It can warm the cockles of your heart (wherever cockles might be located; beside the left ventricle, perhaps?) or chill you to the marrow.
When I was a child, home leaned more to the cold bones side of things. It wasn’t usually a safe haven, a place of warm fuzzies. Oh, there were moments, but home was found in the branches of the willow tree, or in the hollow behind a big lichen-speckled rock, hidden from view by shrubs. Always there was a book involved, and my refuge was in those pages. Every year my family loaded up the car: parents, three kids, camping gear, luggage, and set out at 2 am to head for some mid-Atlantic beach. It was a migration my parents—and I—lived for, landing somewhere between Ocean City, MD and Topsail, NC and we’d settle in for the week. I anxiously awaited the moment we hit the sand and I made my way to the water’s edge, standing juuuusst out of reach of the tide, imagining that with each wave that hit the sand the Sea was rising up to greet me; that first moment chilly, foamy water hit my toes I was being greeted, welcomed…..welcomed home. I would dip a finger into the water & taste it, a sacramental wine that was more communion than anything I’d felt at church. In moments I’d be up to my waist, then diving under, floating on my back, riding the waves to shore and heading back out again, a mermaid restored to the sea from whence she came. Sure, there were rough moments when She got a tad rough, and I felt like a cigarette butt being ground into the sand, but mostly I felt cradled, safe, at peace and joined, blood to salt water, like I belonged there above all other places. I always, always intended one day to live in sight, sound, smell….soul….of the ocean. As an adult, responsibilities conspired to keep me from the sea. There was a day here & there, but an awkwardness prevailed; it didn’t feel quite right to abandon the family to spend hours in the water, turning into a happy prune. Still more years later, I fell in love with the place I’d always lived, this river-kissed valley punctuated by assorted mountains.
I came to know sprawling farms, sunset mountains & dappled woods as my shelter, my place of peace. I’ve mentioned in other posts how, during the year spent living in Baltimore, I longed for the Hudson Valley, how we came off the Thruway on a house-hunting trip, came around a bend in the road, and suddenly tears poured down my cheeks as the snow-draped Catskills came into view, because I had so missed this place. Fast forward to this past week. Linda & I took our first vacation in four years, and went camping on Cape Cod.
The weather was good, the Moon was full our second night there, we laughed long and hard at Kate Clinton & Karen Williams, ate fish and roasted marshmallows, snuggled under blankets and listened to fog dripping off the trees onto our tent.
We bought spices, herbs and more at the Atlantic Spice Company, watched the sun set over the salt marsh,
meandered Fall-bedecked New England roads. And on Saturday, we finally made our way to Herring Cove Beach. In season, this is Provincetown’s most popular beach according to the brochures, but on this cool, sunny late October day, we saw maybe two dozen people. It was mostly just us, sun, sky, breeze, sand, cormorants, a seal…and the sea. As we strolled at the water’s edge, I dipped a finger in the water and touched it to my tongue. The briny cool was as familiar as if my last visit was days ago, not years.
But later, sitting in the sand with Linda, I realized it no longer felt like home. It was lovely and peaceful, but like visiting….a friend’s home, not mine. I looked at my beloved, wind-blown and lost in thought, her mind spinning with inspiration and plans. We’ve been together 9 years now….we’ve dreamed, planted, painted, learned, worked, laughed, cried, shared dogs, cats, chickens, bees (okay, we don’t actually share the bees!), planned, imagined, risked, sowed, reaped….together. It doesn’t matter whether we’re snuggled in a moon-bathed tent or sweating in the garden, caressed by a blanket of fog on the piece of mountain-view property we’re trying—hoping-- to buy or smushed on the couch with Yeti, Lola, Pip & Elf—one happy, eclectic pack. Home is no longer a place; it’s a state of being, a state of grace. Home is with…no, home is this womon. She is as simple as shelter, as complex as love, and the only home I’ll ever want.