No Place Like Home

Finally! By the end of today, I will have everything I own under one roof. 

When I decided to move back to South Dakota in July, I had no idea what I was going to do. Worst case scenario: move into income-based housing and take early Social Security.  Ideal scenario: get another newspaper job. Workable option: get a clerical job of some sort and move back to Pierre. 

Pierre was the home of my heart. In that community, more than any other place else in my adult life, I had found a place to belong. I knew people, they knew me, and for the most part, we liked each other. Leaving Pierre is a decision I have never ceased to regret. I thought I needed a newspaper job; what I really needed was that home.

To begin yet again, I packed my stuff in a moving van — getting rid of living room furniture and dressers, so there was room for what was important: three desks, four easels, all my art and all my books. I drove — yes, me alone in a 16-foot moving van, the largest I was willing to tackle — through two mountain passes and across the never-ending (or so it seemed) terrrain of Nevada and Wyoming.

When I arrived in South Dakota, I dumped most of my stuff in storage, and moved into a friend’s guest/storage room. Within weeks, I was working — in the newspaper business, a real godsend. I rented a cozy cottage (i.e., small house with tiny bedrooms and kitchen that may — if I am lucky — hold half of my baking stuff) and have been rebuilding my life.

The challenge has been getting my stuff out of storage. Drenching rain, work and a bout of some kind of croupy cough that knocked me out for two weeks have all worked against me. I bought a small dining room set at the thrift shop across the street from work, so I had a place to sit, eat and write. I bought first an air mattress and then a futon, so I’ve had a place to sleep.

One weekend, I made plans to move, but ended up losing my help. I used the rented truck to move my art, the clothes I could find and what I thought were kitchen supplies. Unfortunately, I have no need for bundt pans, cookie cutters and a mixer at present, so the kitchen boxes weren’t terribly helpful. However, with that move I was able to get art on the walls and begin to envision how I wanted to live in this space.

But, when I got sick and had to buy not only the ingredients, but also the pot to make homemade chicken soup, I decided I couldn’t afford to wait much longer. Buying stuff might be good for the economy, but it isn’t  good for my bank balance. With winter coming, I will need snow tires and winter clothes. I can’t afford to spend money unnecessarily.

Equally as important — perhaps more important — is the need to create a home, to stop living transiently. I am not a terribly materialistic person, but I find comfort in surrounding myself with things that both reflect me — books and art — and reflect back to me evidence of the life I have lived. I sit down to eat a meal on Corelle plates with the iris pattern and I remember the friend who gave them to me. I look at the raku-fired bowl I made at a weekend gathering of artists and remember the fellowship of those years.

These small things are a bulwark against the never-ending march of time and all the changes it brings. These small things offer comfort in the midst of life’s inexplicable hardships and disappointments. These small things strengthen my emotional and psychological armor in a world that feels more threatening every day.

However, my need also makes me acutely aware of how blessed I am in this moment, despite the inconveniences I have been experiencing. So many people have lost so much in recent months. Hurricanes and wildfires have wiped out all evidence of the lives they have lived. 

And with disaster after disaster hitting our nation, we cannot even respond to all the  needs being created, to all of the trauma being experienced. There is too much. We want to turn in upon ourselves. We want to turn our backs on others. But we will pay a great price if we do that.

We will lose that within ourselves which makes us human, which makes us good. Our true home isn’t the roof over our heads or the things we own. Our true home extends beyond our local communities.

Our true home is the human family. Our true home is the world in which we live. We have to care. We have to bear witness to heartache and loss. We have to share resources rather than hoard them. We have to live with hearts and arms wide open to our brothers and our sisters.

We have to love.

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