By Trudy Wischemann
“Home is where the heart is,” a friend tells me. We are talking about where home is for each of us, which naturally involves what home is. I counter his definition with Valley author Gerry Haslam’s favorite description: “Home is where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”
Both of these descriptions implicate people, describing home as a social environment. There can be no doubt about that aspect. All I have to do is be around my mother, bless her heart, for five minutes and I’m mentally back in kindergarten. This aspect of home is what many of us are facing as the holidays approach, with its mixture of blessings and re-livable curses.
But for me, the word “home” always involves a physical environment, with specific climate, topography, vegetation, wildlife, even geology. This is to say that home, for me, is also geographic, with a historical context that I have in some way participated. It is a permanent place where people come and go.
And when I go home in my mind, it is to a specific place where I never lived, but visited often. When the homing instinct bears down on me, I fly back to the “ranch” in western Washington where my Aunt Hazel lived the best years of her life.
It helps that she often said she bought the place for us, her youngest sister’s offspring, so we would know what it was like to farm. It helped that what little farming she did made her exquisitely happy, but it was more the life she lived there on that place than any one activity. She loved harvesting the apples from their little orchard and making pies and ‘sauce, as well as watching the deer come down from the forest above to harvest their share. It was fishing in the creek and frying trout for dinner. It was baling hay and putting up oats for winter, watching cats in the barn catching mice. And it was photographing all of it that made for peace in her life.
That place is home for me, I realize now, because there is where I learned the basic truths of my life. That food comes from the land, and shelter as well. That contentment is achievable and worthy of pursuit. That I am an outdoor person at root, and curious about the natural world, fascinated enough to learn from books and from my own observations. That intimacy with a place, a little piece of land, is priceless.
They say you can’t go home again. I’ve never believed that, though for most of us over 40 the places we once lived are unrecognizable now. We destroy home for ourselves every time we obliterate bird habitat, push out olive groves, level fields for development. But if, as I feel now, that home is an intimate relationship between people and place, there certainly is room for us to come home. May the pending holidays help us stretch in that direction.
Trudy Wischemann is a native Washingtonian who writes from home in Lindsay. You can send her visions of your home place c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247 or visit www.trudysnotesfromhome.blogspot.com and leave a comment there.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.