There is No Place Like Home

It is late afternoon, and I am walking along a hiking trail. Then, I stop, transfixed by a shaft of light falling through the interior of the woodland off to my right. Is it... a memory of something? A reaction to beauty? A whisper from a past life? I cannot hold it long enough to understand because the minute I try, the magic is gone. My heart unexplainably soars, only to free fall the moment I feel the flutter of my own wings.

From as long as I can remember, these moments have happened, without consistency, or pattern or predictability. They feel out of time mostly, a moment one step outside of “now”. When I was a little girl, I called them memory moments—a flickering of something from my past—but when you’re six how much memory past can you really have? Then, when I got a little older and learned about the concept of Déjà vu, I thought they were past-life memories, which made me feel quite exotic and special. But that label was at best a placeholder, not truth. I’d be wandering around the woods across the street from the house I grew up in, and suddenly the light would shift and I’d think: “There!” But where? What was I seeing? What was it I was feeling?

More recently, as a much older person, I think of these reality wrinkles as “home.” Not the home of childhood across the street from the woods, not the sheltering embrace of my grandma’s arms, not the houses I’ve lived in with my husband and daughter or the memories of family and friends therein. Home is somewhere before forever and after always. Incredibly precious and almost not there.

Like so many journeys, my road “home” began in earnest out of entirely practical concerns: I needed to find my health. After years of struggling with severe, sometimes life-threatening, allergies that only worsened throughout a frantic search of doctor hopping and drug taking, I finally let go of the remedies of conventional medicine and sought help outside the sphere of health insurance-covered options. I began seeing an “unconventional” doctor, taking the supplements he prescribed and changing my diet little by little to make myself well.

It wasn’t a quick fix; it’s not an amazing story, nor is it an unusual one. But it has been an enchanted journey that took me way beyond my own wellbeing. I found that my own health was intricately connected to the health of the Earth, to the people I call friends and family, to all the people I know and will never know, to the farmers who grow my food and for whom I have incredible respect and gratitude. I found that the easiest way (and the hardest way) to achieve anything for myself that truly matters is to allow my life to unfold in accordance with a Universe that is far too amazing for me to fathom, to live in faith, to be simple, to practice kindness, to waste nothing and love infinitely, to keep trying after each perceived failure at perfection.

I’ve spent many hours reading, researching, listening to other wise souls—especially my friends in CCC, practicing the arts of cooking and conservation, writing the blog Green Gal of the Midwest, making mistakes, feeling joyful and confused—often simultaneously, and just thinking about things in general—watching for the next flicker of “home”.

So, as we have pondered these 40 days over words such as economy, value, sufficiency, stillness, connection, balance, and consumer, where does “home” fit in? At the risk of a roundabout you remember the end of the movie The Wizard of Oz, when the Tin Man asks Dorothy what she has learned that will take her back home to Kansas, the only thing she’s wanted since falling from the sky into the magical land of Oz? Here’s her answer: “If I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with… There’s no place like home.”

I bring up this most famous quote to anchor us first in loving what we have (something that sits at the core of our Confluence Climate Collaborative philosophy) and then to find a way to have—to keep--what many of us love most dearly: this beautiful planet Earth. Because if it isn’t there, we never really lost it to begin with. On Earth Day 2022, we may all be feeling a little overwhelmed, given the most recent report on climate change. We may all be feeling that what we love has already slipped from our hands. But I’d like to suggest that just like those ruby slippers on Dorothy’s feet that she wore throughout her harrowing adventure, just like those transcendent moments out of time when we know something is important even if we can’t name it, we’ve always had the power to connect to Earth, to “go home.”

Indeed, over time, I have felt the small moments in my life grow in significance, as the grander events have faded from view. Photographs I took with my old 35-millimeter Cannon Rebel at Lake Tahoe on some or another vacation—how two fallen sycamores became a bleached cross on the shores of Calvary and a mass of driftwood shape shifted into a Victorian sofa. Or the day an owl flew feet above my head in the woods while I was riding my bike in the rain, or the sunlit rain shower on my 63rd birthday, when I asked my grandma, many years passed over, for a present, for her touch. And even now, I still feel myself in the small, softly lit room at beautiful La Vista on a late autumn evening when a small group of pilgrims decided to continue learning together as a Confluence Climate Collaborative...bringing us here.... home.

Going home, perhaps even saving home, while grand on the global scale, may be quite small for each of us, something that fits inside our hearts, in a bowl of soup steaming on the kitchen table prepared for a friend, in the ripples from a pebble tossed in a mossy pond to the music of child laughter, at the reading of poem, the planting of a tree, the gathering of friends, the lighting of a candle, the saying of a name...when our hearts unexplainably soar.

These moments--the ones we KNOW but can’t name. It is in these moments, I believe, we clearly see our way forward, why we do the work, why we show up, why we stay hopeful, why we return home because it is there, just waiting for us.

The poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote: “If you will stay close to nature, to its simplicity, to the small things hardly noticeable, those things can unexpectedly become great and immeasurable.”

Join the Confluence Climate Collaborative at the Fuller Dome, Sunday April 24th, for Spring into Healing, a loving Earth Day celebration honoring our shared home.

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