To Call This Place Home
He did not look like a professional hobo in his professional rags, but there was something definitely rootless about him, as though no town nor city was his, no street, no walls, no square of earth his home. And that he carried this knowledge with him always as though it were a banner, with a quality ruthless, lonely, and almost proud.
When I first tore through this Faulkner, so apt seasonally and geographically, I thought Joe Christmas and I to be of the same stock. He moved through town after town, spurred on by the conflicting blood in his veins. My conflicting blood – the need to be rootless and free and the desire for deepest community – knocked my feet onward for so many years. Many cities, many towns, many jobs, many homes.
I thought Christmas and I to be of the same stock until I up and moved to Nashville.
I’ve been called a gypsy moth, a free spirit, an irresponsible child with a discontented heart. No matter where I lived, I dreamed of hitting the road, catching a plane, hopping a train bound for a place hot and dry and choked with cacti.
I’d listen to U2’s “Heartland” on repeat for hours, imagining all the landscapes I’d want to see in the matte finish of reality rather than the glossy pages of National Geographic:
Mississippi and the cotton wool heat
Sixty-six, a highway speaks
Of deserts dry
Of cool green valleys
Gold and silver veins
Of the shining cities
And the soles of my feet would burn.
And the soles of my feet would move me on.
But since trading in my coastal address for a landlocked one in Nashville, Tennessee, they have cooled. They’ve cooled to embers – nearly out but easily fanned back into flame. Content to crackle and spit and smolder for now.
Once in a while, I miss home. And once in a while, that homesickness gnaws at my stomach like hunger. I miss early morning runs down roads splitting wheat field from blonde wheat field. I miss the electric sunsets over the bay and the melon-colored sunrises over the sea. I miss the sound of tractor tread outside the house. I miss the morning conversations with my mommom over coffee and newsprint. And I miss my baby sister’s little hands around my neck.
Like Christmas, I’ve been ruthless with this rootlessness, and it’s made me lonely more than once. I’ve pushed folks farther than just arm’s length, and I’ve moved on – a defense mechanism made acceptable through ever-relocating circumstances.
There’s still the dream of an El Camino heavy with suitcases and an open road dark with thunderstorm clouds.
But now I’m content to be still.
To unlace my shoes.
To call this place home.
Where do you call home?