My post, "Where Is Home?" generated a fair amount of discussion, most of it on Facebook. A saying shared by my friend Catherine stood out for some folks: "It takes a lot of living to make a house a home." I'm not so sure.
When I attended our church college in Michigan, the school had two campuses. It was transitioning from the small, original campus in an older, residential area, which offered no space for expansion, to a more suburban location. Lumbering, old, tour-style buses ferried us between campuses. My freshman year, I was in the Radio Choir, which rehearsed and recorded in the early evening on the old campus, and my dorm was on the new campus. After rehearsals, I boarded the bus with other choir members and people who'd been taking late classes. We rode past houses where windows were lit with evening warmth. Sometimes I'd get a quick glimpse of a family sitting around a dining room table or playing games in their living room. I would imagine their everyday lives and feel a longing for home.
When I visit Native ruins at Chaco Canyon or Bandelier National Monument, I do the same thing I did from those dinosaur buses: I imagine what it was like when those small, stone rooms were homes—centuries ago—when they were filled with light and love. I guess at where a child kept her little treasures, who made love in this space, what it was like to drowse to sleep looking at this finely detailed masonry.
Contrary to the idea that it takes a lot of living to make a house a home, I have sometimes felt more at home in a hotel room than I now do in this apartment—the space where I long to feel I am home. Perhaps that at-home sense in a hotel room comes with the contrast to a day full of movement—rolling through unfamiliar territory or even over roads I've traversed many times. Perhaps it is in juxtaposition to previous days, when I was a guest in other peoples' homes. Thus, when I enter that room, there is a feeling of coming to rest, of being myself without having to think how my behavior might impact someone else, of not needing to go with anyone else's flow. There is a sense of coming to spiritual and emotional rest, of utter relaxation.
Being at home, then, is not necessarily about the amount of living done in a space before it can become home. It is, at least for me, more about being fully present, being centered, being at rest within myself. Perhaps that's easier to do in the immediacy of a hotel room, when the heart knows it will not be required to stay and live through the dull times; the days or weeks, even months, of hurting; times of trudging through the everyday detritus of living. I don't necessarily wish to be present with boredom. To be centered when I'm immersed in the pain of loss or failure holds very little appeal. I'd rather be distracted–imagine myself somewhere other than within these four walls, fantasize being in the company of someone other than me. My soul itches, prickles, with the desire to be gone from the everyday, which is making me uncomfortable in my own skin.
Being at home in a place is more about being at home within myself. It's about coming to rest at center point, accepting that here I am—just me, only me—it matters little how long the stay is. It's being here now, in this present moment that makes the place home.