“The best kind of friend is the one you could sit on a porch with, never saying a word, and walk away feeling like that was the best conversation you’ve had. “
– Author Unknown
My grandmother was that friend for me. I remember the long summer mornings with her on her porch, watching her garden become more beautiful with each breath. These days are long gone – she’s no longer with us – but her legacy lives through my fingertips as I write this. Her laughter echoes in my heart even today, after five years of her passing. Those endless summer mornings on her porch taught me a lot about what it truly means to feel at home. We could sit together quietly for hours, staring at the strawberry bushes and the apple trees and smelling the raspberries that send their hellos from the far end of the garden. After a long silence she would ask me to go pick some potatoes so she could prepare lunch. “And dill!”, she yelled when I was about to dig my fingers in the cool soil, trying not to disturb the worms.
Needless to say, her house was my haven. It is the well I drank from, even today. My grandmother’s house shaped me for life. There’s no question about it. It provided me with the ingredients I mostly needed in order to stay whole in this mad world. And for that, I’m forever grateful.
The house was sold soon after she passed away. That was a sad day. But I found a way to make peace with it and move on with my life.
…Until last week when I received a Whatsapp message from my sister. She had seen our grandmother’s house on a real estate site. As soon as I saw what had been done to the house, I burst into tears.
I mean, big ass tears.
The kinds you get when you realize something you hold so near your heart has been messed with. Vandalized. Sterilized. Swept off the memory lane.
Maybe I’d be more forgiving if the remodel was tasteful, but it was plain ugly. Cold. Tasteless. It did not emanate any soul. Zero. It felt as if my grandmother’s essence no longer lived in the walls of this house. Also the garden had vanished. It was another layer of letting go for me.
This time, the letting go was less about her and more about myself. The visual contrast between my memories of my grandmother’s house and these pictures was so radical that I was faced with my own mortality. It’s like that morning when you look into the mirror and a stranger is looking back at you. And you eventually make peace with the fact that “the only constant in life is change” and that the true sense of home is found not in the outer but in the inner world and in the full acceptance of what you find there.
Wish it were that simple.
If you lost your home in the wildfires (which I hope will never happen to you) and your friend told you to just find the sense of home within, and not worry about it, what would you do? Right. My guess is you would be very upset.
It’s not only your house that you lost, your entire orientation towards the outer world shifts with it. Our home narrative reveals our quest for identity and when our home narrative changes, we are forced to change along with it.
“I can place my tepee anywhere in the world because my soul is at home with the earth.“
– Native American saying
But what if our beloved earth is burning? What if our collective structures are crumbling? What if certain things we believed to be true turn out to be untrue? How do we feel at home in the world when the world is falling apart? How do we find peace in destruction? How do find our center when our anchor is lost? How do we build a nest in the trees when the trees are gone?
I don’t know.
I don’t have the answers but I can offer tools that may help you. Make up your own list and commit to it.
1. Let’s start with the “I don't know”. For me, that simple "I don't know" is always a good place to start. It helps me make friends with the unknown. Get really good at saying it, even find comfort in it. If you find yourself in a dialogue with someone and you feel the urge to prove your point or find a solution, pause, and say: I don't know. Because most likely that is the case. Notice what happens to your mind after a while.
2. From there, we can move to things we do know. Wisdom we have gathered over the years, mantras, soulful certainties. List 10 things you do know to be true, and that you can count on. Visit them often.
3. Plant something. Take a trip to your local nursery. Dig your fingers into dirt. The researchers are discovering that getting our hands dirty trigger our natural production of happy chemicals, serotonin and dopamine. Post a picture of your project below in the comments.
4. “Let go or be dragged.” What can you let go of today? Start with something small. Go to each room in your house and throw out nine things that have no use or meaning. Make space. Embrace the empty. Something beautiful will always grow out of it.
May all of us be mindful of what we do with this precious time on our way back to our authentic home that nourishes and inspires us.