My essay “Home is Not a Place,” was published on Proximity.
Home is not a place, but a feeling. It’s open space and snow-capped peaks, endless sky and mountain breezes. Home is the feeling I get when I am at ease. It is the softening of my forehead, the relaxing of the lines on my face. It is the lift in my shoulders when my worries cease to weigh me down. Home is the lilt in my step, the dip and bob of my head, the unfurling of the knot in my stomach. Home is the feeling I get when I travel.
It is the smell of tortillas and roasted chicken perfuming the air at a mercado in Mexico, the company of a stray dog to share dinner with, the meandering, narrow streets of a foreign village. It is the call of a hammock slung under a canopy of fig and lime trees.
For me, home is the promise of something new around the corner – an impromptu conversation with a stranger on a bus, a plate of something new to eat, the unfamiliar yet somehow comfortable hum of a distant language against my ears. Home is how I feel when I am in between places.
I felt it while rolling over the gentle hills of Eastern Kansas, and while racing under the dark reddening skies of Missouri. I felt it while I cruised on smooth asphalt past a blur of lush Ohio farms. Home is what I feel when I feel at peace.
Sometimes strange, sometimes foreign, but not always, home can be the familiar, like the sound of the cool rippling laughter of friends over beers on a summer afternoon. It can be the remembered outline of a ridge, the mouthwatering lure of summer tomatoes, the salty twang of a friend’s guitar.
Home can be the tall grass and overgrown weeds in a neighbor’s yard, a certain color of red paint on a barn, or the way the light slants in between the cracks now that the animals are gone. It is all the places I’ve been and all the places I’ve yet to go. It’s the long shadow of a friend on a well-worn dirt road. It’s green corn against blue sky, and the paper-white shine of birches underneath it all.
Home is the smell of manure and hay and sweat and sun and dirt. It’s the welcome feeling of friendship and warmth from strangers, and the crisp metallic taste of the lake just before fall.
Home is both sorrow and joy. It’s the lick of an ice cream and death of your first dog.
It is timeless, and stuck, on that day, that summer, that moment, when you thought everything was just fine, when that song was enough to make you cry, and the only thing that mattered was those friends by your side who were going to be there, forever.
Home is the past and the future, but never the present. It never stands still. It’s always out there wavering in the distance, just out of reach, like hope on the horizon.
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Christine Steele is still searching for home.