We begin today with a poem. A meditation on the idea of “home.” A prayer, you could call it. And a damn good one:
I leave the bedroom…I begin walking
through my house. I will traverse it
many times today like a creature
covering her turf. It is a journey
that zigzags and returns upon itself…
a circumambulation…a re-remembering of “place.”
I know this is the way many ancients prayed–
circling a holy site to deepen their devotion.
I wonder if animals offer their speechless prayers to You
by scuddling over their well-known ground?
My foot rises. Before it falls
there is a tiny moment when
neither of my feet are really carrying weight–
a suspension, a moment of physical trust.
Something in me knows that the ground will still be there.
Let me return to this innate knowledge–
this ancient confidence.
The floor in this house is wood…wide, old boards.
When I walk I am walking on the wood and in the woods.
I am walking on the life of these trees.
They have been cut and planed…offered up
for this sheltering. Let me remember to offer myself
to be shelter for something in Your world.
My foot falls. The ground rises to meet it.
A holy, ordinary moment is repeating itself.
All the time I am meeting and being met like this.
Your whole creation is ground.
Help me to remember that in this mutuality
we can become home for each other.
You are asking us slowly to become
Your holy site.
Some months ago, my wife’s friend and colleague at the university asked if we would watch her home over the summer. She was going away for the months of June and July to make much of late spring and summer in Aix-en-Provence. We were to care for the dog, tend to the mail and the recycling, and to keep healthy the hundreds of plants that surround the grounds. We accepted.
To indicate the transatlantic nature of my life, you must know that at this very moment, my wife is traveling by train from Ascona to Zurich, as part of her tenure in the French PhD program at Vanderbilt University. And so I come to this house alone, packing as much as possible into my tiny little car. I move over our things trip by trip, so that each time I leave my apartment it becomes less my home. And I’m pressed with the task of figuring out what it really means to be at home and to call a place your home.
I have no revelations yet. But as I move through the house, books are perched on coffee tables and cabinets like signposts pointing me in the right direction. The poem above comes from the book “Being Home” by Gunilla Norris, which quite literally fell into my lap this morning when I set down my cup of tea on the side table.
One thing of which I can be sure is that food will play a big role during our summer in the big, old house. The owners even started a small patch of tomatoes and butter lettuces, which I’ve been caring for over the past few days. In time, once we’ve settled in, you can expect more recipes and photos of what I’ve been eating and cooking. Talk soon.