“In life, a person will come and go from many homes. We may leave a house, a town, a room, but that does not mean those places leave us.” — Arik Berk
The following essay and poem are excerpts by this author from a new anthology published by Nectary Press, Home: Writers Explore Its Meaning. The anthology features “…writers with Madison, Wisconsin-area ties who were asked to personally explore the concept of home. The result is a collection of place, belonging, identity, resilience, and love.” On November 2, 2016 OM Build and OM Village Tiny Houses Occupy Madison, Inc. hosted a fall fundraiser for the organization. Contributors read their work and the evening included the sale of the anthology, a silent auction of handmade items, and a performance by the Raging Grannies. All proceeds benefited, OM Village Tiny Houses.
Home: Hearth and Heart
Home is wherever I go, wherever I lay my head to sleep, and wherever I wake and realize I’m still alive and safe. Some homes have been safer than others; some have sheltered my spirit as well as my body. Some homes I’ve shared with people who loved, cared for, and protected me; in some homes I’ve taken care of and nurtured others. I’ve lived in homes that have been rest stops along my journey, safe havens and sanctuaries, temporary shelter from the storm. Other homes have served as base camp where I’d return to rest, be restored, and renewed before venturing out in the world again.
I’m grateful and I’m lucky. I’ve had many homes in my six decades. Most of my young life growing up was spent in a small Cape Cod house with my parents and five siblings. We didn’t have everything we wanted, but we had everything we needed. As a young adult, a baby-boomer, and a hippie in the 1960s, I lived communally with others, sharing resources; sometimes my home was simply a couch or a carpet to sleep on. Soon my first love and I tired of the psychedelic-rock-a -rock-bullshit and decided to get married. We made a number of homes together. Cue Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and their song, Our House.
“Our house is a very, very, very fine house with two cats in the yard,
Life used to be so hard,
Now everything is easy ’cause of you…”
As often happens in life it wasn’t always easy. We separated, and I moved four times in 18 months. This began a template for my future. I became a cliché — a U-Hauler — leaving one relationship to move-in with another, sometimes finding temporary respite by living alone in between. I became pretty expert at finding a new home, packing and unpacking, and settling in. The first couple of decades I started collecting material things to make my homes more comfortable and aesthetically-appealing. I’ve spent the last two decades letting go of material things I don’t need, or what’s not important anymore.
What has become important is that I carry my home and hearth in my heart. Home is often that place that I return to, to be with people I love, either physically, or in my reminiscing. For almost a decade now, home has been that refuge where I retreat at the end of the day where I now live a solitary life, yet I’m seldom alone. I venture out in the world to be with my community.
Did I say that I was lucky? Did I mention that I’m grateful? I am. Others are not so lucky. Their home may be a slab of concrete, a night spent under a tarp, or on a bench until asked to leave, to move on, keep moving. As a community, it’s our job to help those who struggle, who are homeless for whatever reason. The intersectionality of homelessness, inequality, race, poverty, joblessness, gender identity, addiction and alcoholism, and domestic abuse are symptoms of the failure of our society to provide sufficient support and safety net for those in need. What we all need is home, a hearth and heart.
Following is the poem I wrote when I lived in a vibrant neighborhood, west of the State Capitol near downtown Madison comprised of rehabbed warehouses and contemporary apartment buildings. My writing desk looked out the window at my neighbors and I watched their comings and goings and the sun rising and setting.
The sun rises again as it did yesterday.
A hammock hangs from a balcony like a smile,
as I look across the railroad tracks and parking lot at the lofts.
My urban neighborhood dense with people and activity,
morning runners, dog walkers, early-rising medical students,
singletons returning home after a night out.
The rising sun reflects off the Cream City brick facing me,
while green space runs parallel
with blacktop parking lot and railroad tracks.
Green, gray, green, brown and tan tumbled stones and gray steel,
gray weathered timbers repeat the pattern,
blacktop bike path, green again, above sky blue translucence.
It’s been a year since I made a home here,
repeating sunrises and moonsets, again, again.
The sun rises, as it did yesterday.
To read more stories about Home from Mixed Metaphors, Oh My!: