Monday, October 15, 2012

On Leaving Home

It occurred to me, the other day, that some see "home" as a cocoon; a retreat; a place to hide from the world's ugliness for a precious few hours each day. (Okay, guilty as charged.) Others seem to see home as a base of operations; a place to get showered and changed before heading back out; a place for parties; a place that keeps the rain off of one's head. I wonder which is the healthier view.

I'm thinking much in the same way the I did in a recent post: there is a certain uneasiness in having succeeded in taking good advice. You work and work to get yourself conditioned to take that advice, then you either become a weirdo for being one of the few who accomplished the desired outcome, or, you start to wonder if the good advice is really that good after all. 

For instance, we are always told to treasure the moment -- to put less emphasis on the past and the future and think of now; to drink it in and savor the experience. I'm the king of this. This, I've gotten down.

Right now, for instance, I am sitting on a beautiful autumn afternoon on the wooden deck in my back yard. My son is out in the yard "working" in his "blacksmith shop" making stick-weapons. (He now wants to be a professional blacksmith when he grows up.) My wife, cooking dinner, is sending delicious dinner aromas out of the open windows; the dog is lying at my feet; number-two-son is joyfully chattering to himself in an Italian accent as he plays Mario Brothers, just inside the open door behind me. The woods in front of me are a constant motion of green and gold. 

I do not take moments like this for granted, ever. In fact, knowing that each moment like this will be missed some day, I try to collect them. But I collect them gently, not aggressively. I don't want to kill them and press them into the album of my brain; I just want them to rotate through my consciousness as a kind of cognitive slide-show through the days I have not yet lived. When my boys are "out there" standing on their own, grown tall and confident in their own strengths, I want to be able to call up this day -- this second -- and to sigh and remember that we lived in a home that -- sure --  sometimes clinked and clanked, but that, often, like now, vibrated harmoniously in the winds of existence like Coleridge's eolian harp

Still, I wonder. Do I put too much emphasis on retreat? Do I allow my introverted tendencies too much sway over my life? Should I spend more times out at bars watching football with friends and less time watching cartoons on the couch with my sons?

I know that it is obvious: it is better to watch cartoons with one's sons than it is to watch football with one's friends. Any moron can see this. But, it is not necessarily better to replace football with friends with cartoons with sons. 

Same old thing, right? Balance. 

Well, as I walked through Philadelphia two nights ago, having gone through a day of grumbling monologues because I had plans (albeit, pleasant ones) in the city and couldn't go home to relax with the family, I looked over at Independence Hall, shining in the lights; and, as I looked up at the steel towers of man's ingenuity, and, as I passed through the center of the deep history of the grand old town toward a friend's house -- toward a night of fun with my quirky and -- okay, I'll say it: goofy -- bunch of chums, I smiled to myself. 

There is something right about leaving the best thing in your life behind for awhile. 

Sometimes, home has to be a base of operations. Which is fine with me, as long as I can crawl into it later and pull the covers over my head when I get back. As long as I have some time to recharge the old batteries before wandering away again.. 


  1. Lately I've been blogging about the meaning of "home" too. In my most recent post on the topic, I explicated it as something that is neither a refuge nor a base of operations -- because it doesn't involve the urge to go somewhere else or do something else.

    It isn't the same thing as living in the moment either, because among other things, it's about getting to know a place on a deep, intimate level and enfolding it in a rich tapestry of memories.

    1. Thanks for visiting. Good points -- I like your use of the idea of "dwelling" as something we rarely do these days. For sure, no one seems to be able to (or even to want to) slow down enough to actually "dwell."