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Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Home is Where the Heart Is

In the deathly hot European heat wave of summer 2003, I bought little 6-oz. bottles of water for 8 Euro. Then, that was the equivalent of about six bucks, rounding that out to about a dollar a gulp. Believe you me, it was worth it at the time. And those peddlers selling them out of backpack coolers made a killing! In the Netherlands and in Amsterdam, and in Paris and London, I braved the searing temperatures to take in the extraordinary experience of travel.

For the first week, I stayed in a suburb of The Hague, where Slobodan Milosevic was being held at the time for war crimes committed during the Kosovo war. Passing by his place of residence, the International High Court of the UN, I recall feeling a sense of connection to the world.

Yes, this was an "I've-arrived" sensation, a rare feeling of delight and worldly wonder, and I continued to experience this throughout my incredible trip. Cavorting around bustling Trafalgar Square, gazing at the languid, sparkling canals of Amsterdam, taking in the power of the cold North Sea, and listening to the midnight laughter and gaiety of Paris' thoroughfares, I fell in love with a world that existed in girlhood dreams. Books and stories filled my imagination as a child, and I created fantasies of romance and travel and intrigue, desperate to fulfill them. This was my dream coming true, thrilling me entirely.

The sprawling metropolises, dizzying diversity and staggering history of Europe were overwhelming, and I happily submerged myself in its complexity. I felt alive, and excited beyond expression. Only during a brief trip to New York City, years before, had I felt such passion for my surroundings.

Europe was perfect, it welcomed me with all its offerings, and I loved it back. Still, I look upon my memories there as my most precious, and I hope to return one day.

Those feelings of interconnectedness with the Great Big World, and the excitement it gave me, brought me to the belief that I wanted to make my home a place where that could be experienced always. And I also want to bring that into the rest of my life, where my job and pastimes can reflect secularism and global awareness. I'm not certain what that even means; I just know I have to do it. I simply have to. To be a part of something bigger; that's what makes me feel real and here; to feel that I belong.

Upon my return, I was duly homesick and ready to be in my own bed again. Were I not so exhausted, I would have taken a moment to bend down and kiss the American earth. I've never been so happy to be home, even despite my wish it were elsewhere. My trip afforded me the extraordinary ability to see the world through a broader perspective, and that alone was worth the time and money. Let alone the fun I had!

My family moved from the house we returned from Europe to the next summer, and I was happy to go. That was the second home I'd lived in, and there have been many since. But perhaps home is not the right word. In truth, I never wanted to live there. I was utterly restless and did not feel that I belonged. Later, I lived in Alexandria, Virginia, a very posh suburb of Washington, D.C., and then moved many times after that. Alexandria was certainly the most hip and happening of all, and that was the closest I got to feeling that lost sense of belonging.

Now that I've moved again and I have effectively established myself, for all intents and purposes I mean, I find that I do not consider my home my home. Not just the physical house, but the environment, the community.

What makes a home? Familiarity? Comfort? Family? Perhaps it takes time for all of those things to settle in, and also the effort of home-making. Personal touches and routines, and the safety and trust of a welcoming, inviting place of living.

While I am happy to sink into a bed that is safe and made warm by the comforts of my little world, and though my "stuff" is everywhere, and I have cluttered my home with the familiar objects of daily life, I feel a calling to somewhere I cannot fully describe; a higher place that satisfies my thirst for secular belonging. I hope to find it and make it my own, and I have no doubt that I will when the time is mine to claim. My passion for discovery will fuel my restlessness. In fact, I may never really rest at all, for there is so much World to be found, and I have only but a lifetime.