A little over a year ago, my husband and I left our sweet little country home to move to the city of Macomb, IL. While it has been quite an adjustment moving from a wide-open space and constant companionship with wildlife, we are adapting reasonably well to our new house and urban environment. We are fortunate in our comforts. Still, after all this time, I find myself thinking of our old place as “home.” I wonder when does that feeling go away? And what exactly is “home?”
For animals, home begins with the perfect habitat – a combination of food, shelter, water, and space. When they find a place with those elements in the right quantities for their species, they carve out their living space and do the best that they can. It’s as simple as that. You would think that would be true for people as well. But I think there is one more element necessary to make a habitat feel like home…time. It is time and perhaps a bit of habit and toughing it out that makes the change in feeling that we’re home.
My latest book review, under Recommended Reads, deals with just this very topic. Home in the Woods by Eliza Wheeler is the sweet story of a family under duress that must make a home out of a shack. The child telling the story is skeptical that a ramshackle structure could ever be “home.” But by the end of the book, we see that it is time spent in the home… loving, enduring, repairing, and just living that transforms the space into “home.”
Perhaps it is true for all beings. For a woodchuck, it is crawling into its den, time and again, escaping the wind, rain, or snow and curling up into a warm little ball – safe from the outer world. For a bird, it is flying home to its nest, day after day of chasing down insects and dodging watchful hawks, then nestling upon a small clutch of eggs that hold its hope for the future. And for me, it will likely be, coming home after a hundred hectic days, to the house lit by the glow of a living room lamp, where my husband waits for me as he reads a book. I will walk through the door, past rooms filled with their eclectic mix of him and me, our families, our past, and our present. He will hug me, and we’ll fall into chatter about how our days were spent. Tired and glad to at last be cozy on the couch, that’s when I will no longer think of the old house and know I’ve come “home” to where I belong.