So, Tsh Oxenreider on her site The Art of Simple, put out an invitation to share where we feel most at home in honor of her upcoming book. I decided to take her up on the challenge. But as I thought about the question and mused on the idea of home I realized that maybe some of the places I feel most at home aren’t physical places at all.
I’ve been fascinated at times by the concept of home. I recall many times during graduate school when I would be driving over two hours to get out of Long Island and back to New Jersey. I had several errands to run and I would find myself stopping home to my apartment if only for a few minutes. It was a powerful compulsion; I needed to touch base.
As I contemplated this, being the psychologist that I am, I considered the psychologists Winnicott and Harlow who focused on attachment. Winnicott’s focus was on humans and involved far deeper and more interesting theories, but Harlow’s work with monkeys provided a much more vivid picture for me. The image that came to mind was of a small infant monkey who clings to an artificial “mother” as a windup robot moves toward it menacingly. When the infant monkey sees the threatening robot move toward it, the monkey runs to and clings on to the “mother.” After a few seconds, the monkey leaps off of “mom” and yells at the robot, then runs back to “mom” again. It is amazing to watch as the monkey gains strength from his regular contact with “mom.” This idea of refueling and gaining strength reminded me of my need to head back to my apartment.
So Tsh’s question went through a slight transformation in my head. I began to ask where do I refuel? Where is the place where I feel most at peace, catch my breath and gain strength for life? I truly believe that this can be a physical place for many, but as I look back over all of my moves I discovered that the places I lived became “home” for several reasons- faith, story, and more recently in the last few years my wife and son.
My wife and son are new additions to my life, so I thought I would focus a bit on another “place” where I feel very much at home- story. There are novels that I have read- places I go in my head and heart that saturate me and the world around me. There were many times in my life when a good book was my home and I felt comfortable there.
Throughout the many seasons of my life, I have found myself returning to Tolkien’s world- the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. I connect with the theme of the unlikely hero discovering his destiny and connecting with a greater story beyond himself. I loved how Bilbo and Frodo discovered who they were by actually leaving their comfortable homes and finding deep friendships in unlikely places. I drew comfort while in my own little world believing that it was bigger than I could see and there was a comfort outside of a hobbit hole.
So, in my life, I’ve felt at home in a few books. During difficult, lonely and stressful times I’ve found strength, hope and companionship through story. Books have transformed places into homes for me.