A friend just asked me where "HOME" right now and a favorite quote came to mind:
“[Wo]man's real home is not a house, but the Road, and that life itself is a journey to be walked on foot.” (from Bruce Chatwin’s “What Am I Doing Here?”)
At the moment, “HOME” is in Pescia, Tuscany, Italy. To be honest, it feels the most like "home" of any place I have lived in quite a while, even if we are renting from friends and very little in the place is actually ours. Maybe this is the first reason why I feel so “at home”: we actually own very little of what is in the house. One of my biggest challenges in life is to throw anything away, especially books, photographs (yes, I still have a lot printed on paper) and all the treasures (rocks, shells, spoons) that remind me of places I have been and people I love. Consequently, I tend to keep a lot of little things, which eventually feels like too many little things… clutter. So I put my house in storage, where I know I can have it again when/if I really need it. And usually there I discover which “things” are the most important… that I really “need.” Living in a fully furnished house, is like being ‘minimalist’ without the pain of throwing things away. Cheating, I know.
It occurs to me that this is my strategy. There is a pattern here. The first time I put everything in storage “for a while” so that I could live somewhere else was 1987 when I went to Spain “for six months” and stayed for 14 years. From 1987 to the late ‘90’s, little by little, I threw or gave away, or took a few things back to Spain with me each time I was “home” visiting, until I had nothing in storage anymore, well maybe a few boxes in someone’s attic or basement.
Then, in 2001, it started again. Everything went to storage “for a while.” This time it only took five years to whittle down to zero. From 2006, we (I met my husband in 2001) had everything we owned in our apartment, first in Florence then in Miami Beach. Then, in 2013, we were off again, and again with just about everything in a “temporary” storage.
Now we are just into our third year of, as my husband says, “living with two suitcases” (actually, it is more like four suitcases EACH… and that feels way too heavy!). I think this time our storage contract will be much shorter. Each new storage space is smaller; I need less the things that always end up there. Each year it gets heavier and heavier to have so many things. Even the hope chest my great-grandfather made for his daughter, and that has passed down to each eldest daughter in the family. Forever that was a treasure that I couldn’t imagine not having in my home. Now I am happy that my sister can enjoy it and probably pass it to her any of her daughters. Sometimes I feel like a snail lugging a giant house on its back.
I do occasionally miss our "vietri" dishes ... but only occasionally. And sometimes I miss being able to revisit a favorite book (reading on an electronic screen doesn’t really do it for me, especially for the books I most like to revisit… art, architecture, philosophy…). Most of all, I miss family and friends who live in other places that I have left. That is a big downside to this mobile life I have created.
So, when my friend asked me “where is ‘home,’?”, I asked myself what is ‘home.” I have always had the habit to say “I’m going ‘home’” to refer to wherever I was sleeping that night… a hotel, a friend’s house… And so it is now. At the moment, home is here… where I can look out the tall windows at the oak in the garden, a tree that, at this time of year, gives much needed cool dense shade, and will soon be turning a brilliant yellow that reflects into the living room making everything glow. Home is here with good friends living upstairs and others across the street… with a beautiful black lab who jumps for joy every time we go out the front door... where at night not much happens unless friends gather for dinner in the garden to talk about life and books and films and to dissect the latest fascinating events in Italian politics…
I know I will miss them a lot when I leave in a few months to spend the winter at “home” on the other side of the Atlantic… Just as right now I miss my family and friends in the other hemisphere. It is just part of being at “home” on the road.