You Can’t Go Home — You Are Always Going Home
The spiritual practice of tithing teaches me it is by giving I receive. Through quiet meditation I learn to hear. By loving my enemies I know what love really is. I know peace through accepting what is while taking action toward something else.
The paradoxes of spiritual living are many.
In high school I was captivated by the book title You Can’t Go Home Again, by Thomas Wolfe. Although I tried reading the book, in my teens, several times without success, the book title haunted me. It is not possible to return home. This, too, I believe is a great paradox. As I can never return home, I am simultaneously always going home, making home, or home.
This past month I spent ten days at writing camp in Port Townsend, WA where my family had a vacation cabin while I was in my twenties and thirties. I concluded my stay in Seattle, WA where I have lived most of my life. I was keenly aware to all that changed and stayed the same.
Some changes I observed:
Port Townsend has grown. Where I once began to feel my way into the city after a long stretch of green is now shortened by new stores.
The former cabin is worn down. Its front shows off four times the flower beds I recall, the adjacent lot is for sale.
Riding the ferry into Seattle I see a ferris wheel which reminds me of California, not Washington.
The neighborhood I raised my daughter in had beautifully manicured lawns. Except our former house which looked like the Adams Family.
The schools, church, stores, shopping centers, restaurants I attended; either gone, updated, or expanded.
I felt old. I heard me saying to myself “I remember when …” one too many times.
What stayed the same:
I walked the city of Port Townsend every morning where I was greeted by unabashed, garden grazing deer.
The weather was predictably unpredictable. I experienced rain, clouds, thunder and lightening, and sun. 50 to 80 degrees.
I found great comfort in the bumper stickers touting peace, end of war, encouraging love as our starting point.
Conversations with childhood friends was easy. I noticed a power in established relationships, I hadn’t seen before.
The greatest change, though, was within me. I wasn’t trying to “get, find, seek, heal, or understand anything.” I wasn’t returning to Seattle, as I had many times before, to find pieces of myself I had left behind. I showed up whole. I brought my home with me; this was magical.
One foggy morning as I walked the Fort Worden grounds I experienced an extended moment of bliss bordering upon ecstasy. I was grateful without conjuring it up; the gratitude bubbled up within side of me one message at a time. I listened to it. I knew I was blessed. I was awake to being at a camp with and for writers, 100 or so of us. A small and mighty group. The energy of this thought filled me up and began to seep into my heart.
I was thankful for growing up where lots of green, wildlife, and water existed. As my eyes ventured toward the Strait of Juan de Fuca, I could step into my younger self and recall memories of the beach in front of me where I had no clue how fortunate I was. I learned Princess Di wasn’t loved on that beach when I read the scandalous book of her life written by Andrew Morton with the white cover. In a matching bathing suit, my friend Laura and I sat on the beach complaining about how pale our skin was and how unfair it was that a princess wasn’t loved. Years later I would learn later about Princess Di’s death in the cabin within two miles from this beach with the new 24 hour news cycle which provided me with non-stop gripping detail. Although I didn’t know, then, I knew now of my fortune. This earth I stood upon held my history; in its own way it was holy. And, yet, the earth will erode and I will perish. This didn’t diminish my gratitude; but fueled it.
I relived some of the moments at the cabin when my daughter and I made shrinky dinks in the oven with her friends. I saw each friend of hers, their age and contribution to the memories. Which leads me to the story of my daughter, Glenda, and her children going to the haunted castle down the street while I stayed back to clean. My friends all saw ghosts in the cabin and I felt gipped as I tried squinting to see them. Vicki swears it was a woman she saw, most say it was a blob of light which hung in the corner and would swoosh by throughout the night. One-by-one memories bubble up and with each one came a residue of love, gratitude, and fullness. I don’t recall if this insight lasted sixty seconds or three minutes, it wasn’t long; but it flavored the rest of my stay.
I had come home; I was always home; and I bring my home with me wherever I go.