Thursday, June 28, 2007

The road home

"He is happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home."
-Johann von Goethe

At some point on any journey you reach a place, even if you are traveling to the far side of the globe, when you realize that upon the next mile you'll no longer be moving away from but moving toward, that you're headed back to where you came from. Some years ago, after weeks of drifting westward from where we'd set out from Houston with a tent, sleeping bags and a cooler in my hatchback, my friend Sherry and I eventually hit the coast of California where we reckoned that apart from hiring a boat and heading for Hawaii, our continued travels could only lead us back toward where we'd started. Home.
When I was younger, before I had a home and family of my own, I loved to leave and never looked back. I never got homesick. I remember traveling with another friend who could only be away for so long before the comforts and familiarity of home called her to return, something incomprehensible to me at the time. I still thrill at the thought of setting off to somewhere new and unexplored, of leaving the known behind to encounter the great whatever. Every journey is a starting over, a new script being written as you go and anticipation for whatever may unfold before the curtain comes down.
Once I had my own family home morphed into something more than merely a place I was obliged to return to. Home became a tiny kingdom, a benevolent realm in which love, need, desire and support were mutually given and received. My presence or absence, its length and contours, mattered. Home no longer represented tedium from which to escape (OK, yes, on occasion family too requires its own escape, if only to gain perspective from which to newly appreciate it) but a place of grounding, history, purpose and hope. Flight from home is exhilarating; knowing a nest awaits your return, built of your feathers, is stunningly heartbreaking, in the best way.
On this return trip, after a two week visit to Texas, I was coming back to a place that is becoming, one year later, home. But with each mile that brought me closer to this spot in the middle of Missouri, I realized home is much more than the place where your key fits the front door lock. It's the people who are waiting with hearts wide open you when you walk in the door.


Karen Miedrich-Luo said...

You're beginning to sound like Dorothy. Nothing like a good strong tornado to set things right again.
PS, was that friend me?

Anonymous said...

This is amazing companion piece to Zugunruhe, don't you think?
Welcome home.

Anthony said...

Hey, that comment was mine... don't know what's up...Anthony!!!

allison said...

OK, Toto, now that you've outed yourself don't blame me. I guess what you had was contagious.


I agree:

"Along the trees those birds, my birds, circle in agitation. Zugunrube. That's the term for their restlessness, before migration. Exotic word. It's musical and appropriate...."

So then what is the parallel and exotic word for homecoming?

Notice the bird in the photo? A gift on my journey from Toto. Hmmn. I'm reminded of a Strange Land.

keen reader said...

In ethology, zugunruhe is anxious behavior in migratory animals that are prevented from migrating, especially in birds. When these animals are enclosed, they exhibit this behaviour during the seasons in which they normally migrate. Behaviourists have been able to study the endocrine controls and navigational mechanisms associated with migration from studying zugunruhe.
This term is German in origin and is a compound of Zug (move, migration) and Unruhe (anxiety, restlessness).
Adrenocortical hormones are known to act in concert with prolactin in stimulating this behavior in White-crowned Sparrows.
The phenomenon of Zugunruhe is generally believed to be found only in migratory species, however study of resident species shows low-level Zugunruhe, including the oriented activity, suggesting that the endogenous mechanisms for migratory behaviour may be present even in resident species.


Anthony said...

Geomagnetism -- the ability of birds to maintain a course for home, for the nest, despite adverse conditions, conditions that offer no visual cues or celestial assistance in orientation.
Not terribly exotic, but interesting.

keen reader said...


Escape velocity is the speed that something would need to completely escape the gravity of a large body, like a star or a planet (such as the Earth).
If a ball is thrown upwards while standing on the ground, the ball will always fall back down. But imagine if ball is thrown fast enough that it never falls back down, and instead travels into space farther and farther away from the Earth. The minimum speed at which this could happen is called the escape velocity.
The escape velocity at the surface of the Earth is 11.2 kilometers per second (or 6.96 miles per second

Once again, ME TOO!

allison said...

So if birds could fly at 11.2 kilometers a second they perhaps might transcend geomagnatism?

Anthony said...

Transcend feathers!

Jenni said...

Allison, where is that quote from?