Truest Home

Home is very much on my mind these days, and turning up in my reading, conversations, and other inputs.

I understand the pull toward home—hearing of people who face decisions about evacuating or hunkering down, returning or staying away, in the wake of natural disasters. Even if your home is the only thing standing for miles around, in dubious shape, it would be hard to stay away from it.

My own home supports my life in a way that feels incredibly juicy, especially in the warmer months when “home” extends to include the back yard, front porch, garden. I feel gratitude every day for the comfort and fruitfulness of home. I love looking out from my writing desk and seeing hummingbirds flit among the plants I’ve tended.

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I had a headache till I went out yesterday in the rain to pick raspberries and mint. Home heals.

As someone who is all about hearth-and-home, I feel my heart twinge at the thought of the millions of displaced people all over the world. Whether the cause is climate change, earthquake, war, ethnic cleansing, or something else—I hate to imagine losing the protection of home.

And there but for the grace of God…

I know that all is temporary, that everything is bound to change. And sometimes change happens dramatically and suddenly. I know that this body is temporary and the building I live in is impermanent. So how do I make a home for myself that transcends fixed ideas of safety and security?

I can see my solid relationships as home. Though also impermanent, the people I love (and who love me) create a web of safety. Yes, and…

I can experience this temporary body as home. Sinking into the body brings me to the present moment, which is also my home, and always accessible. Yes, and…

I can see this earth as home, holding me in its vastness. Touching Earth as home feels both tender and precarious at times as fires and fissures continue to spread. Still it gives me a sense of belonging. Yes, and…

None of these can be my truest home. Clinging to relationships can bring pain. Expecting the body to always hold up (and the present moment to always feel delicious) is unrealistic. And watching the earth’s systems besieged distresses me.

Yes, yes, yes. And.

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“A cloud can never die. A cloud can become snow, or hail…or rain. But it is impossible for a cloud to pass from being into non-being.” —Thich Nhat Hanh

I can feel my energy as home. Here is where my frequency expresses itself in its unique but universal signature. Here is the eternal part of me that can never perish. It only changes shape.

Thich Nhat Hanh has said that it is unscientific to think that we disappear when we die, because of the scientific principle that nothing is ever created or destroyed.

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Do you see an oak tree in this acorn?

Energy cannot be destroyed, only re-formed.

My essence, my soul: That is my truest home.

Over and over, I touch this space when I return to my home frequency, as Penney Peirce calls it—that space of wholeness and rightness, that note in the orchestral symphony that brings harmony to the All.

And this, I tell myself, is the deepest security and comfort, a home not dependent on relationships, circumstances, or physical structures.

In Troubled Times

This morning when I looked out my front window, I saw that the juneberry we planted two years ago was budding. Through the rain I could see the sketch of pale green buds dotting each limb, all the way out to the tips–with the promise of sweet berries contained in each one.

Buds that will open into a white blossom, eventually fruiting into delicious berries

Buds that will open into a white blossom, eventually fruiting into delicious berries

The young tree has made it through two of the hottest summers on record, and those tender buds gave my heavy heart a lift.

We planted it because we wanted to grow fruit on our lot, and we nurtured it with weekly waterings through crippling drought and heat. When the rain barrel went dry, I carried buckets from indoors, saving shower water, cooking water, and the dehumidifier’s daily emptying–occasionally breaking down and stretching the hose across the lawn to let it run for a slow hour.

There’s a passage I like from Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, called Interbeing. It begins:

“If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper…”

My tree contains multitudes. It has the memory of picking juneberries with my dad a few years ago, before he got sick, before he died, in the forgotten pocket park wedged between two busy streets. There were three small trees just loaded with juicy wine-colored berries. Dad picked from the high branches and left me the low ones. When the low limbs were picked clean, he pulled the ends of the high branches down so I could reach.

Also part of my tree is Jason, the neighbor who helped dig the hole and position the root ball on planting day. And Jerome, the young man who brought it to us through his work with Keep Indianapolis Beautiful. This year Jerome has parlayed his passion for trees into his own business as a certified arborist, Tree-Centric Solutions–pledging to not only plant, treat, and prune trees, but find uses for wood from trees that can’t be saved.

My juneberry even holds the “woman tree,” an old redbud whose upreaching shape I cherished. I called her that because she always looked so feminine to me. The woman tree was just beyond where the juneberry is now, and she had to come down because half the branches were dead. Taking her out meant we freed up room for a fruiting tree.

Irony: I learned that redbud flowers are edible just after we had ours cut down. I could have decorated so many salads with the woman tree’s bounty. Not only that, but Jerome’s service came too late for her: What I wouldn’t give to have something made from the wood of that beloved redbud!

So all that’s in this juneberry too: my regrets, my ignorance, my wishing things were otherwise. But mostly, these are outshone by pride and hope.

I share all this because in troubled times, sometimes things like this can help: a small tree in the rain, holding memories and care, covered in promise.