Walking Home

November 7, 2013 in Jenn

Walking-Gemstone Beach

In my mind, life is one big walk.

First steps are faltering and exciting, the whole world opens up. We toddle, then we rush from place to place, driven by newness, passion and possibility. We find our stride, the road becomes clear; we walk with purpose. Our packs fill up: responsibilities feel heavy. We trudge. We stumble and fall, we skin our knees; we get back up. Keep walking. When the path becomes weedy and overgrown, we’re forced to slow down, to choose our footing, to move more slowly, with intention. We can’t see the forest for the trees, we get discouraged, we give up and sit down on a rock to cry. But eventually we have to get back up and keep walking, and we begin to discover beauty in the small things along the path, the things we didn’t notice when we were moving faster. Instead of pushing hard with our eyes on the goal, we begin to understand that the journey is the destination.

It changes how we walk.

And then, something miraculous happens: the path leads out into a wide open meadow and we can see ghosts of other walkers, the people walking before and around us: mothers and grandmothers, aunts and mentors, they line our path, smiling, and the road takes an unexpected turn, towards home.

We realize that the desire to get out, move forward and move on changed somewhere along the road into a desire to get back, build on old things and move inward. We keep blazing new trails, but discover that, somehow, our new trails are laid over well worn paths filled with footprints we recognize and love. Even though we’re still walking, we have returned home.

Home.

Not a building or a place, not where we were raised or a mile down the road, not Sunday dinners or the way our mothers did it, not necessarily our parent’s traditions or even the legacy we were handed, home nonetheless.

At home on the path we create for ourselves: the wisdom to step deeply into the imprints of those who’ve walked well before us, the experience to step around the rotting messes in other places. Stepping around is so much easier than using a stick and soiling the green grass trying to clean the bottom of a shoe. A deep appreciation for the routines that balance our days and the small happinesses we’ve learned to cultivate with every step. A settledness in the soul. An acceptance of self. A confidence in direction. Peace with walking alone. A determination to build on what we have, to create home.

I am one of the lucky ones.

My path is lined with the ghosts of generations of women who have walked well, and built the foundation stones of home deeply before me. Our collective home is a thing of great beauty, with little artistic bits added by each one over the generations, a place for me to live now, on the inside, and to curate for my daughter, who is just beginning her walk, and my grandchildren who are still hovering in the nebulous “if.”

This week marked a turn towards home, in the literal sense, for me. We lifted off of Australian soil as the sun dipped towards the horizon and said goodbye to the Australasian continent. This morning the sun rose on coconut palms, outlined in stark silhouettes against the conical frame of an old volcano on the east coast of Oahu. It was the turning point of a journey that, for the past year and a half, has taken us further and further from our temporal home and yet, internally, has cultivated home in ways I’ll never quite be able to articulate, and that have nothing to do with location.

In a month and a half or so my actual feet will step onto the frozen fields of what really is my literal home. I can’t quite believe that, with Hawaiian sand between my toes this morning, the modern ability to travel quickly is a miracle. I’m still a continent’s length away. I’m looking forward to being home, but, increasingly, I am discovering what it means to “be home,” no matter where I am. In fact, home has very little to do with where I was raised, but everything to do with finding my center and learning to live in that place.

What is your path teaching you about home?