I’m home now after a whirl-wind trip to the Bull City. But, though my things are here and my dogs are here, it doesn’t quite feel like home because the person who has become my home isn’t here. He’s off to Spain for a week-long conference. Remarkably, the place that I left in the Bull City, a dwelling I called home for five years and then spent two weeks erasing my tracks through paint and cleaning and work, wasn’t my home there either. This trip has clarified exactly what “home” is. It may lie in the heart but that sense of homecoming isn’t built of objects or material goods; we construct it, quietly and diligently over time, through relationships.
Here, in Livermore, my home primarily resides in a loved one for whom I’ll pick up roots time and time again if it means growing a life with him. There, in Durham, my home resides in the friends with whom I laugh, cry, share, love, and live life fully. People’s witness to our growth and our setbacks, or to all of those minutia that make up our lives, are what creates feelings of being home. Perhaps we can think of aparigraha, or abstention from greed or hoarding, not just in its negative form of refusing unnecessary goods. We can think of it as trying to slim our lives so that the essential parts of it shine out. We can think of it as attending to the people without whom life has no sense of “home” or, if you’re new in a town like me, to developing new relationships so that this moment in this place begins to grow as a home. Material objects not only distract our attention and create covetous habits, they cover over an essential part of the human condition: togetherness.