Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Everyone needs a happy-list

What does it mean to be on my way "home?" I think my upcoming visit to Winnipeg will tell me a lot about this feeling. Or is it a truth? Indeed homefulness has inspired many an adage, truism, proverb: It's where the heart is. You take it with you. It's where you decide to be. I have learned many of these things for myself, that there is a home in every place, every thing, every idea, and every person I've ever loved. If I live a life of movement through the vistas surrounding me, whether by choice or circumstance, I will have to leave home many more times. I will have to close more doors, I will have to accomodate homelessness, I will have to part with more mugs, picture frames and potted plants. I would rather this perpetual loss than utter isolation, insulation, the locked door of the heart.

Last weekend I was putting eggs florentine in front of my favorite regulars, a gregarious couple, also Vancouver transplants. Robert remarked to me: When you come back to Vancouver for the first time it will then begin to feel like home." I wonder if home is about returning--that sense of the familiar that you begin to hone--about imbedding yourself into a place.

I just finished attending a class on biblical "re-readings" with a Regent College professor, Dave Diewert. The other day, after finishing up my 5am shift at JJ Bean, I grabbed my book and found a cozy corner of the cafe. Dave came in shortly after, and close by, sipping his coffee. It's so easy to ignore people you recognize, laziness the best excuse for not introducing yourself, choosing private comfort over connection. I was glad that I said hello. We sat and chatted for awhile, and many of his own words could've come out of my mouth: "Sometimes when you move from something instead of into something you find yourself asking 'what am I doing here?' " I have asked myself that many times. But then again, the way I understand my surroundings changes every day. So reason isn't really a reliable guide. But then again, neither are feelings. So instead, I am left with placing my trust in the mysterious marriage of the two.

I remarked at how in a city as transient as this one, connection is elusive. The ties that bind us are much more tenuous. How does community happen among exiles and runaways? The modern city: a yawning mouth catching so many errant flies. (see artwork--Jordan Bent--Vancouver artist discovered at November's red-letter Eastside Culture Crawl). When I was twenty years old someone spoke words to me that still reverberate: "The tensions of home and away will be with you your entire life." Yes, the Christian life has its prophecies, divinings, palm-readings of a sort.

The other day at work I was talking with a friend about dreams, and the untapped knowledge latent in them. I was marveling at how much of our life we spend asleep, and I said "we're only really alive for like 45 years! That's scary!" But you're not dead when you're sleeping, she replied. So we're only conscious for half our life. I think of how quick God's people were, in the ancient times, to see a divine hand in their dreams. I think about how science, psycology, pop self-help theories, have co-opted God's canvases for their own mediums. Have arenas where God once played, spoke, danced with us, been stolen for other means?

The sense of freedom I feel right now is tantamount to the options at hand. I heard something in a sermon once, something about how the amount of options available is inverseley proportional to human choice. Translation: the more possibilities, the less actual freedom. It sounds backwards, but the truth is that your choice will end up being more random. If I stand in a bike shop looking out over a potential 1000, my choice will be random. If I stand in front of 4, my decision will be both more informed, and more intimate.

Speaking of bikes, I've finally acquired a "new" one. It's an old Nishiki hybrid. It feels so good to be hybrid myself, again. Adding a genius of a machine to the strength of my body, two efficient wheels to these sticks of legs. To feel the curves and contours of the land underneath me as I circle the sparkling city at 2 am. I feel invincible on a bike. As my bitterness at property crime wanes, I can finally hope that whoever is riding my former two bikes is as happy as I am. And that I am smarter for it.

Everyone needs a happy-list. One to keep around for those days when the soul gets dreary, when a cup of tea isn't enought and friends seem far away. One to remind you of what life is about. I started one once, but I've forgotten where it went. Last Sunday I was perfectly content and begun another in my head: Farmer's markets in December/soup on the stove made from what you already have in the cupboard/an indulgent bath after a run/the smell of lavender/Yo Yo Ma on the stereo/a visit home just around the corner/a new Jean-Pierre Jeunet movie to watch from Marla/dark chocolate in the drawer/three new messages on the phone/a clean bathroom and freshly-done laundry/the smell of beeswax/lapsang souchong tea steaming beside me/moving impossibly slowly.

Current musical obsessions: Over the Rhine and the Innocence Mission. Current favorite lyric: "I'm a mirror, you're a mirror too." (by The Super Furry Animals)

Good thing these blog entried aren't essays, because I definitely do not stick to a thesis! Rather, this is a place to try ideas. Please leave comments on anything I've said, I really value them!


Mark said...

First things first; I really like that pen sketch, very very cool.

I've moved away from Winnipeg a number of times in the summer for jobs, Winnipeg never ceased to be home. I moved away to Europe (Germany and England) for nearly a year one time, Winnipeg still felt like home. The beginning of last year I moved away from Winnipeg, perhaps for good, and this time I'm not sure if it really feels like home anymore. I still of course call it 'home,' but I think that your post had to do with how it felt. I am back in Winnipeg for the fifth return trip and I think that each time it is feeling less like home and more like just the place I grew up.

Many of the times that I've left I've basically lived out of a suitcase. I don't think that I could ever do that and have it feel like home. So, I think that not being on the verge of packing up makes someplace feel like home. Having your own bed also seems to make a big difference. When i first moved to the States, I had a bed, but it was a lame, inflatable bed that was purchased at Canadian Tire. Not the most comfortable place to be, believe me. Now I have a more 'permanent' bed, and I really think that makes a big difference. Another thing that makes a place feel like home are the little things. For example, being able to leave a pile of clothes on the floor and not feel like you need to pick them up right away; and having a cup of coffee and tea and not feeling obliged to wash it on pain of looking like a slob of a house-guest.

I've been really bad at decorating my apartment, but making where you live your own makes a big difference to how it feels.

But, what I suspect is the biggest factor in how much like a 'home' some place feels, is people. As close as contact with people in an old 'home' might be, contact with people in the new 'home' will be more regular. When we leave regularity, we miss it; I do anyways. I miss my friends that i regularily hang out with, I miss the places that I regularily eat and drink coffee, I even miss silly things like the streets that I regularily walk down. They are all familiar to me in a way that things here (in Winnipeg) aren't anymore.

I suspect that what Robert told you is true. When you leave Van, you will miss it, in spite of being excited to go 'home' and see people. When you go back, you will realize how familiar Van has become and you will like that feeling.

That's about all I can muster for now, but if I think of something later, I'll be sure to post it.

Katie de Roo said...


Reading your blog today gave me a spark of hope in my exam blahs. You are an amazing writer and I always love reading your blog. I can't wait to be with my family in 2 days. Say hi to your family for me.


Meg said...

You wrote this quite some time ago and only now I have found it. Again your words are mine- well at least the ones that express how I am feeling- and also the ones that I have not yet conjured up myself! Right now I am at the point of making choices that seem quite random- having countless options ahead of me with no real sense of direction. But perhaps they are still not quite so random- that whatever it is inside me that leads my to make a decision, though I may not understand it, is the product of years of growth and preparation, God's hand leading me into unknown territory. Thanks again Jen. You inspire me in many ways.