I am back from a month on the road. I didn’t say back home. Just back. I have that feeling of discombobulation. Where I live looks strange and dusty and vacant. Nothing has changed except that several bookcase shelves in my office fell off their tracks causing the books to tilt right. It’s as if an energy force got loose in my absence, some invisible house bear that started rummaging. For what? The missing me?
I’m sort of here, but not really.
In the last month, I imbibed the spirit of other people’s homes and I’m still wrapped up in those vectors of other places. Coming back, I recognize every room, every vase, chair and painting on the wall, yet I feel odd, alienated from these familiar objects. I know I put them there but that was me before I left, and now that I’m back, I’m not the same.
And the dining room knows it. It looks lifeless and removed from me. Nothing has been rearranged, yet the tabletop isn’t humming with the previous night’s conversation. No one has eaten there for weeks. The air knows it, too. It smells stale, devoid of scents and seasonings. In fact, all the rooms have a shuttered up feeling. At what point, I wonder, does the house shift from waiting for its owner to return to succumbing to certified vacancy?
Who am I? Where am I? And how do I start to make my home feel like mine again?
Yesterday, my first day back, I took a nap on the living room couch. That put some body heat into the cold cushions, but a few hours later, I was on the internet researching homes for sale in another state. --Oh, there she goes again. She’s off on a fantasy to find something better, someplace that’s far away from where she is now, her traveling self unable to settle down and be still.
I took out the vacuum cleaner to vent my restlessness. I attacked the foyer rug and tried not to be critical of my office. But it was messy: black cat hairs clumped in the weave of the off-white rug. Soon, the noise of the vacuum buzzed the air and sent vibrations through the floors reawakening them as I made my way across the dormant rooms.
I’d been gone. I felt different. I was changed by my travels. I needed to stir this soup called home, mix in remnants of my old life with the elixir of renewal to create something altered. I was ambivalent, frantic, happy, uncertain, churning with the fact that I had returned. I needed to add those fresh ingredients of what I saw, tasted, talked about, smelled; my arm jabbing back and forth, pushing and pulling the vacuum hose like a spoon in a big pot of stew.
How do you feel about your home after you’ve been away on a long trip? Relieved? Happy? Disappointed? All of these things?