Strange thing, words. Strange how the definition of them shifts, how they can become new things after a time, lose all meaning they once carried. Strange how they can absorb new connotations based on the situations we find ourselves in, how they can twist and turn into silhouettes in shadows unknown, all based on the light of what we’re going through, who we feel like we are, the people we donate our time to, as time is precious after all.
Home, according to the scribes of yore at ol’ dictionary.com, is defined as “a house, apartment, or other shelter that is the usual residence of a person, family, or household,” as well as, and I like this a bit better, “the place in which one's domestic affections are centered.” Trouble is, it also defines it as “deep; to the heart.” Problem with this is, when it’s all boiled and simmered, reduced down like some pan stirred glaze, home is arguably one of the most prominent and driving forces in almost all art. We’re all looking for home, we’re all fighting to define it in terms that soothe our own struggling souls, we’re all looking for ways to hold it closer, bring it nearer when it strays, to capture it in not only buildings or cities, countries or continents, but in others, in people, in those we love and trust with the contents of our hearts. Home, the one constant that we’re sick for, and I do once again speak of the big wide we, the we I often speak about on this Signal Fire. I’ve a sneaking suspicion that if you shook up the earth like a snow globe and dropped yourself somewhere in it at complete random, within a week you’d find at least 25 people aching for home. Whether that’s a place they once knew, a person they once loved, or a feeling they can’t quite put their finger on.
The light has transformed across the surfaces we know, the shadow figures that dance on the walls around us telling different stories on different days, convincing us like Plato’s cave dwellers, that what we watch is the reality, and lately, that it’s the only reality we may ever know. As we become trapped in the “homes” we built up around ourselves, if you’re at all like we are over these last months, we redefine not only what home is, but what it should be. We speak at long length in nighttime showers and over morning tea, we ruminate and ponder, we through out aching wishes as though we’re about to blow out birthday candles, hoping that if we want it badly enough, it’ll come after all. Home, we talk of, often in hushed tones with teary eyes, and marvel at how often it includes nothing of the actual physical domicile that shelters us as the dictionary says, and everything about one another, and about the life we picture ourselves living each day in some future we’re stumbling towards. A few nights ago, sleepily and in the warm haze of exhaustion, we whispered over shower steam and the city lights beyond the window, that home one day would be a morning sunrise surf on some Irish coastline, a shared cup of tea on some small porch that could hear the waves, it’d be a long bike ride to a tide pool, a dinner in a pub where more people know our names than do not, it’d be closing your eyes each night worn out from living, and not just surviving. Home would be one another, as it’s always meant to be, home would be a dream shared that we never would have known was, had we never dared to name it.
Would you have asked us to define Home 10 years ago, 20, the answer would have been vastly different. Different words, different locations, different focuses entirely. We’d probably have spoken about the shelter itself, speaking of bedrooms, bathrooms, paint colors, or kitchen sinks. We may have spoken about a city, maybe the city we’re already in, assuming it’d stay the same as we aged, and we’d wish to stay. Truth is, Helena, the place we’ve called home longer than we haven’t, has transfigured over the last few decades. I don’t need to get into it much right now, as this essay is not about that, but it’s not the same place it once was. As we grow, as we learn more about ourselves from our own trials and tribulations, I think we come to require certain things from the places we settle. I think we need a community of like-minded individuals, I think we need a landscape and geography that inspires us, I think we need to feel capable of not just affording it enough to survive, but affording it enough to thrive. Helena, for us, has lost a lot of these elements, and to be honest as I’m always honest here, I feel a lot of sadness as to what’s emerging after the long chrysalis period that was the last 20 years or so. Hoped for butterfly, fought for it, but it’s just not that. It changed, we changed, and so we’ve been so keenly aware of these discords, this lack of fundamental alignment. We’ve been redefining home on a constant basis, taking bits and pieces of all the wide world we’re so fortunate to have seen, to still be seeing as the world opens back up, and melting them down in the pot of our hopes. We’re going to spend the next few years seeing as much as we can, as far away as we can, and deciding which elements are optional, and which are so inherently vital that we’ve no choice but to seek them out.
Truth is, I think we wild humans are made with enough room for more than one home inside ourselves. I think we’re capable of multiple, and that we’ve rooms and rooms tucked away in the folds of our souls, that we can revisit these in memory and dream, in nostalgia and melancholy, that we can close some doors without locking them. Truth is, Helena will always be home, and hell, we’ll probably always have a house here — ahh the difference between a house and a home is so gargantuan, is it not? — as we’ve both roots that sink deep, we’ve both tap roots from ourselves that are distinctly Montanan. Our roots will always be stuck in this soil, and so we’ve begun imagining instead where our leaves will grow, what sunlight on what shoreline will bathe them, which breezes from which seas will start them singing.
Redefining home, the pair of us, and I’m sure the same for so many of you. We are drawn, and we are longing, and the picture of what we wish for is becoming clearer by the day, by the hour. The words might still be foreign, but the feelings, my god the feelings, we completely understand.
I’m drawn and longing
I am redefining home
with words still foreign.