Home Is In Your Art

by Tom Swift

I’m writing an essay on the topic of Home. I have an idea of where this might go — I have some anchor details and a vignette that most certainly will be a hook here — but in the beginning stages of an essay it’s fun to shoot at a topic from all sorts of angles. To read. To explore. To see what comes up when you write things down.

At this point, it’s best if I dwell more in questions than answers.

I don’t like the term brainstorming so much. I do believe in asking yourself good questions and sifting through, as best you can, the responses you get. A good bit may be rubbish but every so often you find a ruby.

What does home mean to me?

Home is a place to set your things. It’s where your stuff is.[1]

One way to look at life, it seems to me, is that it is a search for home. To make a home and be at home in the world. Home in all its elements — the physical structure, the items and appliances, the people and creatures in it, around it, a part of it, visitors to it. The aspects of like that sustain and create your home.

The history of for your home.

I’m someone who loves history but for me I need a connection, a reason, to delve into the past of a place. The history of one’s home — it seems important to know something about that inherent connection.

I have always liked the Phil Collins song “Take Me Home.”[2]

Some people stay in the same place their whole lives. I admire them. I have not been such a person.

I wonder if it’s healthy to remain in the same place your whole life. I once heard one of my old neighbors remark to another old neighbor, one who had stayed in the same house for decades, well past the point at which her adult children had moved out, that it was not good for the soul to stay in one place so long. Probably, this, like most things, is individual. Some people stay because they are afraid to leave or, for whatever reason, cannot. Others stay because they just know there is no better place in the world for them.

There is something to be said about knowing the history of a place because you lived it.

“Home is where the heart is.” Gosh, I hope this phrase doesn’t appear in my essay, for I fancy myself as more original than that. Let us steer clear of clichés, as best we can, in all endeavors.

Though, of course, there is something to be said about home in the figurative sense. Home is wherever you are, one might say to a lover.[3]

That’s all fine and nice but in this essay, and really where I am at present, I think this is going to be more about tangible home. It’s going to be about leaves. It’s going to be about snow. Grass. Dirt. And poop and leaks — water leaks, not just the kind you were thinking. It’s going to be about walls. And basements. It’s going to be about small rooms. About what we need and what we do not. It’s going to be about a fence.

I moved into my current home this past fall. The leaves fell like confetti at a tickertape parade that day. Yellows, browns, and deep oranges had mostly covered my front lawn by the time this home was the place that contained my stuff. I sat a moment on the front step. The moving truck hadn’t left yet. The couch was diagonal in the middle of the living room. My small car, on the street before me, was still packed to the ceiling. There would be other loads. But I was here. I would sleep in this house for the first time that October night. I am usually one to immediately move things around in a new space, set things up, put things away, but this time I felt compelled to sit and breathe on the front step. That morning had been chilly; I had even seen some snowflakes. But by this moment in the late afternoon I sat there without a jacket. I squinted into the sun and watched those leaves fall.

That is one image I carry in my short history here. Another: raking those leaves. In particular, I expect to long recall one late, rainy night soon thereafter of raking leaves and mud and more leaves well past dark. Feeling my freezing fingers on the rake, creating piles, filling bags, trying to finish the chore before more than few snowflakes fell.

It takes a while for me to feel at home in a new place. Why? There may be something to explore there. What makes a given place one’s home? Papers are signed, sure. But it’s more than that, I feel certain most people would say. Raking leaves that night made me feel more at home than did sliding the couch against the wall.

Everyone needs a home. We move out of our parents’ homes at 18, 25, whatever.[4] Even if we want to live in the same city as our parents, at some point we need our own homes.

Home can be a house. An apartment. Condo. Flat. Cardboard box. It’s four walls and at least one hook on which you hang the keys.

Home is familiar. We are most ourselves at home.

Home is a status symbol. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing even for those of us who live in small homes. What does your home say about you to you? That seems to be worthwhile trail to take.

When you first meet someone we do not ask each other questions such as: what fears influence your waking hours? What is your life purpose? Why do you think you were born to your parents? No. We ask: where do you live?[5]

I’m something of a homebody. I like to go to a show or to the gym or to hang out in a coffee shop talking to friends. Yet I always look forward to getting home after.

Done with work? Beam me home, Scotty!

Home base. Homerun. Getting home is big in baseball. And, by extension, sex.

Homepage is one of our modern uses of the word. All those destinations we can visit in the whole of cyberspace and we still want to know when we’re home.

To be in the home stretch is said to be good. You are almost done with a long or difficult task.

Homely. No one likes that term said about him and, let’s face it, it’s usually said about her. But then it seems to me there are worse things to be called. Ever seen a homely looking axe murder. I think not!

To feel homesick: the absence of feeling at home. There is no drug for that. And it’s a downer, man, no doubt.

If you go to an analyst, you might find that in our dreams, a house can be seen as a physical presentation of the self. The house, in other words, is a reflection of who you are, where you are, and what your psyche is up to at present. The home in which you reside, then, is a physical, waking-life manifestation of same. Who we are, what we value — what we are capable of, whether because of our own making or someone else’s (likely a combination thereof). Or at least that is my understanding. I would like to learn more about that. My bumper sticker: symbolism rules.

That is, by the way, a great reason to write an essay: to learn. To learn about people and places, ideas and concepts. To learn, foremost, about oneself.

And what says more about you than where you leave your stuff?


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[1] That this was my first thought may mean a few things: there might something important there. Or I might just be clearing cobwebs.

[2] From his 1985 album No Jacket Required.

[3] And, in fact, Billy Joel does this in “You’re My Home” from Songs in the Attic (1981).

[4] My childhood home holds a special place in my heart. But that place is no longer my home.

[5] Or, I suppose, what do you do? To put it another way: where is your work home?