Home is more of a feeling than a location

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Minnesota

Back in my wayward youth when I was a full-time touring musician, I spent more than my fair share of nights on couches or floors or camped out in the back of my Subaru station wagon. I had two dogs that usually toured with me, so I was never alone and rarely felt lonely. Sometimes I had an apartment to go home to; sometimes I didn’t.

I must have some nomadic ancestry because it suited me. I liked traveling light. I liked the feeling of the open road, and there were very few places I landed that didn’t feel friendly. From that time, I carry with me the belief that most people are good people, and will help you out if they can. And also, that we all need a lot less stuff than we think.

When my husband and I first started dating, I had only an inkling of what I was signing up for by falling in love with a confirmed cowboy who ran a ranch that had been in his family for four generations. Slowly it became clearer. I wasn’t just signing up for a relationship with an individual. I was signing up for a relationship with an entire ecosystem. If I married him, I was marrying the ranch, too.

That was almost ten years ago, seven years longer than I previously lived anywhere else. I remember vividly standing in his house not long before we decided to get married thinking: Can I really imagine calling this house my home for the rest of my life? Can I really imagine never living anywhere else? I felt sure about committing to him, but I wasn’t as sure about committing to the ranch. I mean, could I really stay in one place until I DIED?

I’ve been thinking about all this because the kids and I are on the road again this week. It was a long winter. Between storms and illness, I barely left the ranch from November to April. This is the first time I’ve been anywhere other than a quick run to a neighboring town for groceries. Heading east on the interstate, marveling at the miles hurtling by, the landscape blurred and impersonal, I kept thinking: “This used to be my life. This used to be my home.”

Our little tour is relatively short compared to the rambling weeks and months I once spent on the road. Instead of two dogs, there are two kids gazing out the windows of the backseat, and I won’t be sleeping in the back of the Subaru. The biggest change, though, might actually be that hurtling down the interstate actually feels too fast now. Humans were never meant to travel at this speed!

Not much of my wanderlust remains. It’s really nice to sleep in my own bed. I love my familiar routines of collecting eggs, greeting horses, forking hay to sheep, and walking dogs around the prairie at sunset. But it is also nice to step outside the routine and see what it feels like to try on the familiarity of the unfamiliar again briefly.

I have to chuckle though. We spent our “vacation” days between my work commitments hanging out with a good friend on her little farm in Minnesota. Her acreage is very different than ours. She’s got turkeys and two giant pet pigs, and there’s a creek that runs behind her house where kingfishers nest and blue heron stilt carefully through chilly water. But there’s a lot that’s the same. The feeling that the sunset is a gift that comes every 24 hours. That the animals who share the farm are delightfully maddening neighbors with boundary issues, and that we belong to so much more than we might imagine.

All of which is to say: Perhaps home is more a feeling than a location. If we are lucky enough to find it in one place, so be it, but the earth herself offers this kind of belonging. Perhaps all we have to do is accept the invitation.

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