- a house, apartment, or other shelter that is the usual residence of a person, family, or household.
Home is elusive. Home is where the heart is. My heart is wedged between my left and right lungs enclosed by its pericardial sac. Is that my home? The heart beats and flutters and palpitates and dances and sinks, right there, in my chest. Home? My heart travels with me wherever I go, so wherever I go must be home if the experts are correct.
Home is where you sleep. I sleep on a camping cot, without a pad, because the pad is uncomfortable. Then I sleep on a futon, on wooden pallets, in a cabin, up in a loft. The cabin has no electricity, no plumbing. When the mice begin running over my feet at night and I cannot sleep as a consequence of my newfound fear of rodents, I sleep in my tent, inside the cabin, on the floor, my anxieties temporarily palliated by the mesh wall separating me from the pattering creatures that defecate upon the lids of all my food-jars and make nests out of used toilet paper from the composting toilet outside. I wonder if this counts as home, this place that smells of mouse urine.
When the cabin leaks after rain, and the rodents have driven me out because I can no longer stomach it when they fall into my traps and struggle against a torturous death, still alive though their necks are pinned to the floor and I hate them for making me a slow-and-painful-death murderer, I move into a shed on the farm where I work. The shed has electricity, so it is a nice shed. The first night, I sleep on the sleeping pad, on the floor, and it’s storming; the double doors cannot latch from the inside, and the storm bursts them swinging open in the middle of the night and the wind tries to bring the downpour inside, and lightning flashes and thunder yells. The second night in the shed, the mosquitoes are ferocious. I curl up on cushions in the school library that night to escape maddening bug-buzzing and prickling bites. On the third night, I sleep in my tent, on top of the futon, on top of the wooden pallets, inside the nice shed with electricity. I hear no mouse feet fluttering at night. Dozens of wasp nests hang above my head, but none of them seem occupied, so I’m sleeping in luxury.
Intermittently, I am sleeping in a real bed, in a real house—a house that is home to those who inhabit it, but it is not mine. I am an eternal guest, an intruder, and this eats me. Or, I am sleeping in a bunkbed at the house that I am watching while the owner is away. My heart feels heavy. It wants to go home.
Home is where you eat, maybe. On the outskirts of the farm, I pick wild blueberries. Within the gardens that I have helped cultivate, I collect kale, potatoes, chard, green beans; peas, carrots, radishes, broccoli; zucchini and summer squash; cilantro, dill, parsley, cucumbers, tomatoes, fennel, kohlrabi; spinach, lettuce, arugula and mustard; beets, cabbage, eggplant, peppers, onions, garlic. Eating things that I grew fulfills me as the summer goes on; cooking them with people I love brings me joy. These two things together equate to a home-like feeling, but a factor in the equation is still unsolved. I am a terrible mathematician.
Soon, I will be sleeping on a sleeping pad in a canvas tent on a tent platform in the mountains. I have done this before. Perhaps it’ll feel like going home, but to feel possession over a campsite in the backcountry defeats the purpose of wilderness stewardship; we do not own the mountains. It will not be home-home, but it will be home for two and a half months.
Once, working as an EMT, as I wheeled a patient into the emergency room from the ambulance bay, I could hear a very confused, elderly man whimpering, over and over again, “I—wanna—go— home.” Sometimes I lie awake at night, replaying his words. Maybe he wasn’t confused.
On the farm, we’ve pulled up all the potato plants. Most of them were utterly defoliated by potato beetles. Now displaced, the potato beetles can be found in every corner of the farm’s reaches. I imagine desperation; I imagine that they are lonely because their families have been scattered. I imagine that they are chanting in lamentation of their lost potatoes, “I—wanna—go— home.”
I want to go home, too.