Home (written 2006)
A verse in the Flower Ornament Scriptures says “...the nature of home is empty” and expresses the wish that “all beings...should escape its pressures.” Home is one of those ideas for me that is like a delicious donut filled with a sweet cream of emotion. Appealing, heavy and more than a little sticky.
There is a line in a Billy Joel song exclaiming his love is his home. Home represents longing, somehow. When I think of home I still conjure up memories of childhood. The smell of horses and hay. Our treehouse and the dappled sunlight. Mom in the kitchen. Dad's gardens. Home is still reserved in its first meaning in my heart-dictionary as that place and those people. Where it began.
Home has been more mobile as I grew and there is no house I've felt so rooted in. This piece of land here is enscribed as another meaning of this word for me though. I love the woods, and the squirrels and birds. The paths I walk every day with the dogs. The poor sorrowing May Day tree in the backyard. The one I fought to save when it would have been cut down to move the shop. The one that fights its own battle now against a black fungus the greenhouse woman tells us is carried on birds' feet. The tree I lift my eyes to now as I write. It is the marker of the seasons for me, right now beginning to open in tender green shoots.
The nature of home is empty this prayer says. And the nature (of people) abhors a vacuum. So we fill and fill. With memories, expectation, stuff and ornaments. And it all pushes at the walls of this place, a place only in our minds. The pressure can be painful if we are not able to open up and let it go.
The May Day tree beyond my window may lose its fight, my parents are gone, the neglected tree house is falling apart, and the gardens and hay and horses of my childhood had been replaced by a storage yard of parked yellow taxis the last time I drove by my childhood home. Because all things are subject to change, to age, their natures are empty of anything constant. Not so much a cream filled donut then, as one of the more common kind with a hole in the centre.
But home can have a meaning that is not tied to a place or a memory or to a yearning. It is a sense of belonging and refuge and balance. The poet, Robert Frost said “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” When the haven I seek in a storm is within my own heart-mind, I live inside it, no matter where my physical body may be. The steady accumulation of practice, of serenity and peace that meditation brings, of faith in the path I'm following as I see its positive influence on my life, is the building of such a home. A place where I am always enfolded, always taken in. And because it is carried in my own heart, it is steady and accessible always. I realize that I've turned the old adage inside out. A magician's bag. Empty? Maybe. But then something beautiful and surprising emerges. Once I believed that home is where the heart is. Now, this open heart is where my home is.