When we were kids, we didn’t know we were home. When you are a kid, you don’t know much. We didn’t know any other place; just this place. We didn’t know the meaning of home, though we thought we did, we just knew the word. To us, it was just another field to run across, another hill to dare each other to jump from. It was just another tree to climb, just another stream to swim in. We didn’t read too much into it. At some point, as the innocence of childhood wears off, we got bored of it. We thought, it was too small for us. We thought it was too plain, that there was nothing more to discover. We thought it was too familiar, like the back of our hands. We never thought it was a place we could miss. The people may be, but not the place.
Then we grow up, and we are in a constant search for something, though sometimes we don’t know that what we searching for is home. Perhaps our whole lives are a continuous search for home, for belonging, for love, for acceptance, for comfort. Because not searching for home is to not know that there’s such a thing as home, which is a tragic thought. This search takes us to places and people and spaces and notions. In our attempts, some of us find homes in the eyes of strangers, or in the amply infinite spaces between the words found in the pages of a good book, or the ecstatic riffs of a rock song. Some feel truly home in the silent moments that solitude brings.
Some of us, in our attempt to forget we have no home, find home in dangerous things, and lose ourselves in the process. Some find it in material things, others in their lover’s laughter, others, simply find home in their heads. Some find it in the faces of their daughters, or in the joy of living their dreams. Some cross seas to just feel like living; others lose themselves in the process. Some dream of the snow only to go back to a sunny place, a familiar place, a home. Others live on the road, dreaming of stopping; some others live stopping, dreaming of the road. Some will find it in faith.
Now after periods of absences, some brief, others long, the people have gone, at least those I used to know. Some say home is people, not places: that when the people leave, you are only left with just an empty place. May be this is true. Or maybe what makes a place home is not just the presence of the people we knew, but also the memories they left for us there. They may be gone, but we see their presence everywhere we look. We see them and we feel them right there just as we did those years ago.
Whenever we leave, we leave bits and pieces of ourselves behind. In the memories of the people we leave behind, in the places we walked, in the things we loved. Wherever we go, we carry bits and pieces of home with us; in that scar, in that manner of speech, in that annoying pride, in that first crush. We try, sometimes with fail, to replace this bits and pieces with other new ones. We realize some things will forever be a part of us. May be we become wise, may be grow up, may be just miss that familiarity. May be we find the pieces we left there waiting for us. May be the sounds we hear in our heads that keep nagging at us, is the sound of an empty house that was expecting it’s occupant to come home today, but they didn’t. May be nothing else truly takes its place.
May be our roots are so deeply set in these old places that the new winds or waters can never uproot it. May be this is why snow can never reach the deep-set roots of a tree. May be a man will spend his entire life searching for something, not knowing it is right where he left.
Now I see these places in a new light. I tend to romanticise it. Now the field is not just a field; it is a vast book to get lost into. It lies wide and white at the foot of the hills, caught in a golden light that shot down from a rift in the clouds. Now the sand isn’t just sand, it is where the golden rays of the evening sun sleep, where they go flickering out. The footprints are not unwelcome chaos, but stories of the weary farmers or the lazy satisfied camel. The hot sun is not a nuisance but piece of divine delight- may be a catharsis for our collective trauma.
The cold night wind now has a soothing whistling sound, it is visible in the moon light; perhaps the desert’s equivalent of the waves of the sea. Or it has the sound of someone who would like to speak, who would like to scream even, but can’t breathe. The beaten path is perhaps a journey of self discovery , or the discovery of more places, more tress and more fields, more people and more homes.
Perhaps there’s a danger in that- in putting deeper meanings to things, in reading too much into them, in getting too attached to them. But to not do this is to be indifferent to beautiful things, to art. Sometimes, for you to know home, to truly appreciate home, sometimes you have to leave it. Sometimes you have to know what it is to be homeless. Sometimes you have to see other options, to satisfy your curiosity so that you can choose it. Perhaps to choose and appreciate home is the beginning of the discovery of many other little homes. Perhaps to find home is not to find just a place but a capacity to feel at ease anywhere, or to trust, knowing where your bearings are; knowing where your roots are.
(This post was a product of my helpless and insufferable tendency to lose the plot and drift off the subject. I was trying to come up with a short caption for this photograph that I had taken earlier this year in the fields behind our house in Garissa, where we used to play as children, but I ended up with this- a long ass caption I know, and I thought I’d share it as a blog instead.)