Reckling: Going home
Going home. Those two words can muster enough mixed feelings that they scramble the mind and tumble the heart. The back-and-forth waltz of nostalgic allure and a sneaky, somber doubtfulness creep into the human psyche as we consider a return home. Along with the painful angst of days gone by, there also is a joyful anticipation in returning to the place we come from. After all, it’s the geographical location that has shaped us into who we are.
The concept of home is universal. However, we all define home differently, and this uniqueness is tailored by our own personal journeys. “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned,” Maya Angelou so eloquently confessed. Thoughts and memories of home rank right up there with falling in love and suffering great losses in life.
One of the most intriguing hobbies I pursue is viewing prehistoric rock art, painstakingly engraved by ancient peoples thousands of years ago. It’s commonly found on the smooth stone inside sheltered caves and along the carved canyon walls of the oldest rivers. For the past 200,000 years, just strip away modern conveniences and we find that little has changed in the basic needs that everyone seeks. Prehistoric art predominantly celebrates hunting and fire. The pictographs and petroglyphs depict ceremonial jubilance when these early inhabitants are gathered together with ample food, water and shelter.
Perhaps the most difficult return home is that of battle-weary soldiers, who make their way back from the physical and emotional devastation of war. Those who serve in the military have to reckon with the reality that they will never be the same again and home will also have changed during their absence.
“If hate sends men to war, then it must be love that brings them home. Find your way home. Find the strength. Find the courage. No matter what it takes, … find the way home.” This is Ada’s powerful message in one of her heart-wrenching letters to her love, Inman, in the Civil War saga “Cold Mountain.” The pull of home is a poetic, human phenomenon.
Throughout the epic movie “The Gladiator,” Maximus, the noble and revered hero to the Roman people, maintains a nightly ritual of unwrapping two precious figurines representing his murdered wife and son. He dreams of being home once again with the ones he loves. This fierce warrior, even with his hands still warm from his enemies’ blood, longs for that simple time in his life where he was with his loving family and the special joy of home. “For without hearts there is no home,” wrote the English poet Lord Byron.
My father, whose bright mind succumbed to the creeping darkness of dementia, used to grab my arm with his powerful grip and plead, “Please, take me home!” It was painful to hear these urgent words from the man whom, as a little girl, I asked the same of when he would collect me from long periods away from our home. I quickly learned, by the detailed memories of his beloved older siblings (long gone from this world), that he missed his childhood home. His capacity to reason had diminished, and in the confusion the mind seeks that place of simple happiness and contentment where you feel forever loved.
The comfort and acceptance that we received while living in our childhood home is often reflected in the love we feel for it the rest of our lives. It’s no wonder we face the urge to go back to our original home, a sense of belonging where everybody knows your name and the physical location where one’s identity is grounded.
Perfectly understandable are those who are managing the screaming haste of the big city; it consumes our feeling of peacefulness and eats away at our dreams of a simpler existence. It’s no wonder that at the end of a busy day we just want to go home.
While visiting my hometown, I made a trip to the hilly oasis of Glenwood Cemetery, where my family is buried. That part of “home” — my immediate family — suffered a sudden reduction in numbers when I last lived there, and I suspect I still wrestle with that fact. I wiled away the afternoon at Glenwood, walking the peaceful lanes lined with graceful statuary that watches over the silent population. One headstone caught my eye with its simple inscription, “When my life here is o’er, I’m going home.” I was reminded that, in the end, we all return home to rest in that place from whence we came.
Margaret Reckling lives in Woody Creek and welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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