It has been over five months now since we left Appleton. That feels like a long time to be away from the place that I have lived what is essentially my entire adult life. It is a long enough time for things to change. It is a short enough time to miss the place dearly on a regular basis. I especially miss Appleton when I am craving the feeling of Home, of having a home, keeping a home, having roots in a community and in a place. It was an experience of many colors, then, to return to Appleton recently.
What struck me first was a looming feeling of this is not home. I have no home there anymore. We crashed in our good friends, Chris and Elyse’s lovely basement for the first few nights of our visit, pushing us deeper into the unfamiliar experience of being a guest in a place we know so well. Despite my excitement to return to such a lovely place, this feeling of displacement dominated my first few days in the Little Apple and overlaid them with a sense of melancholy and doubt. Doubt about leaving, doubt about what I am doing (or not doing) with my life, and general uncertainty about the overall wisdom of my decisions. Fortunately or unfortunately, I was able to drown some of these feelings in the frenzy that was Mile of Music, an impressive, weekend-long music event, taking place all over Appleton’s downtown.
A smorgasbord of musicians graced the bustling metropolis with their original works, and people came in to the city from far and wide (relatively speaking) for the event. The timing was coincidental, but I was very happy to be in town for such an event. Regardless, I was very relieved when the weekend was over. Big crowds, you know, I can only take for so long.
The interesting thing that I experienced as the week progressed was that I started to feel quite at home, but that my sense of home had very little to do with a specific house or apartment, as I often visualize when I think of the word ‘home’. I just felt that sense of belonging come back very strongly. Interacting with close friends and feeling like I could walk through town, run into people, have meaningful interactions, and have places to go along the way, helped me feel like I was fitting in again.
I draw a lot of inspiration from trees, and their wisdom in taking what is given and making the most of it. We too need roots to survive and to thrive, but our roots can branch out in infinitely complex ways, along pathways unavailable to such a physical and grounded thing as a tree. Home, then, is not really a physical place at all, as it may seem that it is to a plant. It is a state of mind. It is the feeling of safety, of personal space. It is a feeling of connection and belonging. This explains why I can feel so much at home when visiting a friend in a place I have never been, or on a mountain I’ve never climbed before, or in a city that I used to live in, but in which I no longer have a bed to call my own. My roots can extend through space and time, into the consciousness of a community, the cracks in a sidewalk, or the words of a friend. How lovely that as a physically mobile being, my roots can extend through so many dimensions of reality, and nourish me wherever I am!
In the end, I left Appleton feeling ready to get back on the road, encouraged about our travels, and our relocation, and so very grateful to have such a wonderful, loving community of friends in such a delightful town. Thank you to everyone for helping me feel this way!
I have been trying to collapse these thoughts into some sort of catchphrase or something. I was thinking something like ‘Home is where the heart is.’ What do you think? I was hoping to print it on all sorts of household items and capitalize on the whole thing.