Like many people, I imagine, I enjoy gathering quotes. In fact, I’ve posted a few here on this blog. So it’s hardly surprising that, given my mantra, a number of my favorite quotes would delve into the meaning of home.
For instance, I have no idea how I came upon this first quotes, but you can probably see why I held on to it…
A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.
~ George Moore
Then there’s Kathleen Norris, who’s lived the question of home in a rather deep and conscious way. In her twenties, Norris left New York City to spend what she thought would be a few years attending to the estate of her grandparents in rural South Dakota, a place she’d visited extensively throughout her childhood. This temporary move ended up lasting nearly twenty years, during which time Norris plumbed the social and geographical aspects of home—what ties people to a place and to each other, and how culture emerges from these interconnections.
I suspect that when modern Americans ask “what is sacred?” they are really asking “what place is mine? what community do I belong to?”
~ Dakota: a spiritual geography
To be an American is to move on, as if we could outrun change. To attach oneself to place is to surrender to it, and suffer with it.
~ The Cloister Walk
However, the two home-quotes that have spoken most vividly to me come from Wallace Stegner’s novel Angle of Repose (one of my all-time favorites) and Natalie Goldberg’s Long Quiet Highway: Waking Up in America (which she autographed for me at a bookstore in Boulder, where I was then living and where she’d once studied).
First, here’s Stegner:
Grandmother wanted her son to grow up, as she had, knowing some loved place down to the last woodchuck hole.
And here’s Goldberg’s take on place-as-angel:
I had found a place that was mine. I realized no day went by there that I didn’t stop, take a breath and look around…I had a land I identified with and was connected to. This was important. I wasn’t so easily tossed away…My angels were places I not only loved but felt deeply about…In order to make a place my angel I had to feel I could dream there, find a part of myself there and then carry that place in me from then on.
What can I say? I long for woodchuck-hole familiarity with a beloved home, even as I suspect it’s increasingly unlikely such an intimacy is in my future. Wouldn’t it be delightful, though, to live in a place that I could honestly regard as an angel, a place that inspired me with gratitude and connection?
Not to put myself in the company of Goldberg, Stegner, Norris, and Moore (and yes, I’m aware that sounds like a law firm), but perhaps it would appropriate to close by recycling some of my own recent words…
I wonder if we can choose what places feel like home to us any more than we can choose what we believe or what we like. What if…home isn’t a matter of where so much as who? In other words, what if home isn’t place, but people?