Seven states’ worth of home

It is cloudy and dark, puddles merging into ponds, barely-orange leaves prematurely dripping from sodden trees. “What a beautiful day,” says the man across the coffee shop without a trace of irony. It is the relieved sigh of Cape Cod after summer, after tourists in jaunty nautical garb, after traffic. The locals take back the rock-studded beaches, windy and drippy though they are – loved.

I am back in Boston. After a hectic week, I tag along with Nate to work in Hyannis. I have accidentally crashed a morning gossip-gathering of older folks, skirting the edges with my backpack. My enormous backpack, which has accompanied me to seven states* in the past four weeks. Which holds everything a person could need – clothes, toothpaste, and books – without complaint. After all of this journeying, I feel like a sea-creature hefting my home onto my back.

When I packed this bag to leave Boston in August, it gave me a sick feeling. It is the eleventh time I have moved in seven years, inspiring a preconscious bodily dread of leaving any place – even for journeys I have happily chosen.

There is much I could say about the ways I’ve centered in the past month. I have discovered that sometimes growing pains are, in fact, wounds, and that the growth is only complete when the wounds have begun to heal. Returning to my places of comfort and safety in the South allowed me to stop triage-ing the nicks and scrapes of the last three years; but not because I took a few weeks off of work.

It was because of the way I was welcomed. In all the borrowed places me and my backpack have alighted this month, soul-friends have made space and made food and made time for me to be. In long, long conversations with past professors, in breakfast with my parents, on a drive to the woods, I have been given peace. It seems that at some point I dropped off pieces of my heart with these dear humans, and years later they are giving them back, reminding me who I am. Reminding me Who is my home, even when the only constant in life is travel-size toiletries and the sound of zippers.

Wallace was also welcomed.

Wallace was also welcomed.

It has been fitting to end my journey, in the few days before I move into my next place, as a literal guest in my own house – on my former roommates’ futon. Even in brief meetings I discover that they, too, hold pieces of me in trust; and in that knowledge I discover a deep peace with the transitory phase of life I have been longing to escape. Finally I remember it is an adventure and a gift to be a sojourner, a not-quite-local of so many neighborhoods. Finally I begin to find some love for New England in me. Finally I recall how to be present in only one state at a time. And I can pray with faith that my many friends who are far from home will find welcome. Wanderers and missionaries: there will be home again.

I have heard it is in the character of God to make room for others. If so, there are few holier acts than to give hospitality, and few more humbling than to receive it.


*I’ve spent nights in Georgia, Tennessee, Arizona, Nevada, North Carolina, New York, and Massachusetts.

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