the 90's called, they want their blog post back
I recently went looking for a bit of arcane web bits and found half my life tucked away in a corner of the internet.
Let's look at some of my web doings - c. late 90's At the time I had just purchased my first (and only, so far) house, tended towards going to Paris a couple times a year, and had recently gone to Istanbul and Helsinki.
Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration.
I ramble a lot about travel. Travel is life blood, but behind the willingness and psychic ability to travel is a very distinct sense of home. I could never take off on a whim, I don't think, unless there was something to return to. I suppose, if I didn't feel grounded, I would probably still take that trip but I wouldn't be back here writing about it. I would stay gone, probably looking for someplace which did fit the bill of 'home'. I suppose it's a bit Dorothy-like to get sentimental about it -- and generally I don't know if I would -- but I am on the verge of buying my first house and for me at least there is an incredible amount of fear (egad the prices!) and excitement. But it also makes you look pretty hard at what you need to feel that you have a home. I sat down with a real estate agent and had to do a pretty clear-cut list of priorities so she'd know what I wanted. What they don't tell you is that it sort of helps, but in the end, first time home buying is as much an emotional decision as any relationship.
And buying as a single person feels a little like bungee jumping. I don't have a ton of money, I am just taking what I have and seeing where it will take me. And it's certainly not into the huge loft space overlooking my 5 acres. It's a tiny house in an older neighborhood. I hope that one day I will be able to spend some years in France, maybe in the hills near where Chagall lived and created his masterpiece windows and where Matisse designed one of the most lovely churches I have ever seen. But very likely I will visit those places and not live there.
The latest issue of Architectural Digest has some really great retrospective sections. There are pages of quotes from writers on their sense of home with some ranging into their sense of self/being. It's really not as pretentious as it sounds. There are also some charming pictures of artists. The photos of Calder, Chagall, and Frankenthaler are my favorites. They are photos which are so charming, and have a nice sense of person and place about them. Art and books are good company, and while they don't rub your back, or go to movies with you, there is a certain sense of continuity that they provide which I enjoy.
And I think what makes home an actively good entity for me is my friends and animals. Having people sit around the kitchen, or reading with cats on my lap watching the fish swim is pretty ideal.
One of the biggest surprises about travel for me is that it is possible to find home, small pieces of it, elsewhere. Not everywhere, but there are places. I didn't find home in London, but certainly in the south of France, in a small country bed and breakfast the room was home. The furniture was sparse but solid, the bed was like my grandmother's, the linens were linen, and tucked away in that place, there was no need to be anywhere else in the world. There was something similar in Istanbul. Even in the heat of the summer in a very different world from the one I am used to, after meeting up with friends (and after traveling halfway around the world alone) and sitting on the balcony drinking warm beer and looking out at the Bosphorus, it was home. The feeling extended into even the weirdest parts of that trip. As sappy as it sounds, as long as you are living in the moment, home can travel with you to some extent.
"I think maybe the dream house idea was the last unrealistic fantasy I gave up. The dream career, the dream husband, the dream children, all turned out to be specifically themselves, often wonderful, sometimes maddening, always real. No dream I ever had when I was young of my future family was nearly as interesting as they have turned out to be. Now here I live where I've ended up, down in the valley rather than up on the mountaintop, on three acres rather than thirty, surrounded by furniture rather than "pieces", listening to the forced air blow through the pipes rather than feeling the radiance shine up through my feet. One dog is sacked out on the carpet, the other is coming in through the sliding door from the deck. It's Sunday, and things could be a lot tidier around here. I know that when I get up and go into the kitchen, teens foraging for breakfast will have left every cabinet door open. All of this is thoroughly real and thoroughly OK. The fact is that the house where these moments come together is the best dream of all, the one you never knew you were going to have.
-- Jane Smiley from Dream House