We’ve just returned to the house where both our children were born in the sweet small town in our progressive northern California community after living in a 20’ yurt on a pristine off-the-grid permaculture farm.” How does it feel?” friends ask. “Are you happy to be home?” My brain tries to wrap itself around my multifaceted responses to this seemingly simple question. Am I happy? Am I home? Where is home? Have we come home? And most burning of all, will I ever feel at home?
The things I know…
Our home feels like a mansion. Laundry room, dishwasher, upstairs and downstairs, laundry room, several rooms, two bathtubs, did I mention the laundry room? With a 3-year-old and a 19-month-old, I’m happy to be playing the role of Susie Homemaker, planning meals, using a fridge and freezer and full-size stove. Sometimes the hum of the dishwasher and clothes dryer together, playing along with good music from the Internet (I discovered Pandora.com after a year’s hiatus from anything but checking email once a week) sound like a soothing symphony of motherhood-in-control. Everything running, and according to plan. The floor swept each night, a load of laundry a day, clean diapers in their drawer, tomorrow’s snacks planned, and a craft activity ready for after breakfast.
These, of course, are the good days. The ones when I feel so blessed to spend all of each and every day with my kids, telling them all the while how special, sweet lovable they are. Then there are the days when, to paraphrase my cousin Candace, I spend the whole day trying not to hit them. Or have a spat with them. I’ve stormed out on Isaiah a few times lately, reminding myself of my mother’s slicing “Fine” when she doesn’t agree with my father and knows he’ll change his mind at her displeasure. The days when I’ve shaken my finger at Isaiah and said, “I don’t believe in spanking, but if you don’t…” He doesn’t seem upset. I don’t think he knows what spanking is. If I touch him roughly, he turns and says, “Stop, I don’t like that!” Damn, they learn fast!
For all the travails of my sweet easy boy turning this newly independent and often ornery 3-year-old creature, I’ve been aware since moving from the yurt of the ease of this kind of life. My friend Chas recently returned from India and, I don’t dare to suggest that life in Mendocino County is anything like India, we both did seem under the spell of the luxuries of mod-cons. So, yes, I’m enjoying them.
But I’m also so aware of the abundance of the truly simple life we were living. We were blessed, blessed, blessed by the most amazing food you could ever hope to eat on a daily basis. Harvesting our food each day from a lovingly tended organic farm, planted in harmony with the cycles of the moon in soil amended by a variety of long-tended composts. Finding fresh eggs each morning, milking goats and drinking the milk still warm, putting an astonishing array of “weeds” into our daily salads, regularly eating cheese made by a friend, lamb raised by a neighbor.
Most disturbing to my parents was our lack of indoor plumbing, but for me, going outside to pee in the middle of the night was like a surprise date with the moon. I got to glimpse her on the other side of the sky, clouds shifting, stars undiluted by an ambient light. To hear the roar of the ocean and no other hum or buzz, save the occasionally call of an owl, was to relax my ears completely. It was worth the occasional deluge when it was absolutely pouring at 3 am. And if it was really coming down, there was always Isaiah’s potty.
As one hopeful transplant to the area put it, he wanted to move to where real people are doing real things in real time. Such a full expression of life being lived to its fullest.
And yet, here I am, at home on my computer long after dark, when in the yurt, it would be too dark and cold to do anything other than sleep or lay in bed reading with the headlamp.
With my family on the east coast, my friends scattered far and wide, my brother 5 hours away, I don’t know if I’ll ever feel completely at home. If I stay here, I’ll be forever a visitor from the west coast. If I return east, I wonder if I can feel at home in the natural world and, after 17 years in California, “foreign” culture.
But I do know that this is the question life has offered to me to puzzle through. Everyone must have one. Mine has always been how to feel at home. In elementary school as the “practical one” (Kate Jackson) when I played Charlies’ Angels with my pretty friends. In high school, the partier among my gifted classmates and the nerd among the popular crowd I hung out with sometimes. In college, trying to find my place in such an overwhelming and ephemeral situation. In my body. In my family. In my relationship.
Certainly, being a mother is the closest I’ve ever come. My love for my kids is so unconditional, I know I’ll stay. I’m my most patient. (And my patience is most stretched.) My most selfless, creative, witty, giving. And I get a synched-up feeling as I listen to the hum of the appliances as I finish spraying the counters and sweeping the floor. And for a not at all neat or clean person like me, the fact that this could bring me some sense of peace is like a revelation.
Maybe that’s really the simple life. Feeling at home in your life.