Sunday, November 08, 2009

Of Home and How We Find It

When Tiny Tim (as played by Kermit the Frog) begins to sing at the end of the Muppets' version of A Christmas Carol, I have to be honest and just admit that I cry.

"God bless us all," he sings, "... who gather here, the loving family we hold dear. No place on earth compares with home and every path will lead us back from where we roam."

That Kermit. He wrecks me!

Having moved multiple times in and between six countries and three continents, I am an accidental expert in the emotional travails of separation and loss, boxes and crates, dismantling home and recreating it once again. The drama of moving has it's own set of pains and joys, my considerable experience of which are a byproduct of the adventures I've found.

Now, there is a certain range of hills that run along the southern border of Kenya named, quite simply, Loita. (That's "loi" as in loiter, not lo-ee-tah.) Byron and I lived there for 10 years and, given that I've never remained in any other spot for that long, I often wonder if anywhere will ever feel like home the way Loita did... and does.

When our first home in Loita burned down, we carved a new home out of the hills. One by one, the soil blocks were formed from the rich earth of the range that rose around us. The sand, carried downstream seasonally to pile up on river bends along the way, was hauled up to our clearing and sifted and mixed to become the strong cement of our foundations and the bed to hold the wide, flat stones of our verandah. We walked the hills and chose those stones. We puzzled them together to make a simple and lovely floor.

When Byron realized there was a slight surplus of ceiling joists to hold the upstairs in place, he set to work drawing a dining room table. Thus, our table, made from the strength at the center of the home, was, quite wonderfully, made from the heart of that house.

We shipped that table to Europe when we left Loita. That table, where our babies had sat in their little seats that hung from the chunky edge. That table, made from a house that we designed together to shelter our lives within.

Eventually, we shipped that table back to Africa. Scarred and plain, yet still glowing in warm wood colors, our table stands in all her unpretentious loveliness here in this home in Arusha.

And it's the table that's got me thinking.

Closing my eyes, I see the faces of friends who have gathered round her. Pausing as I write to let their faces come into focus, my throat immediately tightens in that warm way that it does before I cry. My goodness! In these last 17 years since she was made, there have been some pretty precious times centered round that piece of furniture. Precious times because the people who sat with us there were precious.

The table is just a device that draws us close. And yet it's this coming together that makes home. And in this communion, this connection that Sue Monk Kidds calls "a merciful coming together of human hearts", I find that I have home.

Sometimes, when Byron and I are tired, one of us will say that we want to go home. Then we shrug and say, "Of course, we would kind of need to know where home is to do that."

Today, I am reminded that we have home every time we make the choice to open our hearts.

(PS For more thoughts on home by fellow bloggers, click HERE )


Carolyn said...

Lisa: I too have often pondered the notion of home, especially living here, and since my mom died and my growing-up home is no longer ours. So, for the past 8.5 years, I have had no "home" to go back to, at least, physically. No sunny refuge to dream about. So, I have had to reconstruct a new "home" for myself. Not sure it's really complete yet, but I have come to the point of feeling that since I have lived here the longest time since that house, this must be home now. But it doesn't feel like it. Then, I decided that home was wherever I was. Wherever I laid my head could be home for that time. Then this summer, I started feeling like I was coming back to "myself", who I feel my true self to be, after a long time away. Then, I started reconnecting with old friends from high school and college, and that brought me closer. I have now met some really neat people here, and when I listened to them sing at the coffee house last week, it felt like "home". I have decided at this point, I have to agree with the old phrase, "Home is where the heart is". For me, gathering all these people in my heart, and making room for all of them, and what they bring, is my home, and makes me feel more whole. And, of course, God is right there in the middle of it all. :-)

Carrie said...

Being a global nomad does tend to complicate the concept of home. I love the image of home you've painted here. I believe I might have been privileged to eat at that table in Loita with you when we brought Bill to show him around. That's a happy thought.

Jenelle Rose said...

I love you and your table and your ideas about home being where we open up our hearts. I suppose my musings on the H word is not too dissimilar. I feel the ache for ones like you and remember that I'm alive and at once it all feels like home to me. Even if it hurts some.

Carla said...

Lisa, that was absolutely beautiful. Lots and lots of love from my dining room table to yours...

Darrelle said...

This is real. And good. Thank you.

Adriana Roos said...

Thank you for sharing; this comforts and inspires me. x

Katie said...

I second darrelle. I feel like I have said this semester, "here ecuador, you have some of my heart too, this is just the beginning of my coming and going."

Sometimes I feel most at home when I am on the bus here Lisa and an indigenous lady sits down and isn't afraid to talk to me, with all her oranges and lentils in a withered basket to sell. Sometimes I just want to hold her hand and ask her to tell me her story. openopenopen us Jesus.

peace over yall!