An Epic Home

August: for many, the season of “getting away” and going on vacation. But what if you aren’t going anywhere? Perhaps it’s because you are not able to, for whatever reason. But maybe you just love being home.

I do savor the many joys of travel, of pilgrimage. Today’s featured poem was written shortly before an unforgettable trip to Venice. But while I have had my own share of odysseys, I also have a deep shire-like appreciation of my home, and relish returning there, even after the greatest adventures.

A particularly exciting and potentially limitless journey is creating a home that is epic, one that becomes family legend; one to which you (and others) always want to find your way back. My mother has a house like that, and my grandmother’s home was such a place. (Fittingly, today’s featured song is one of her favorites.) My grandmother moved out of her house about twelve years ago to move in with my aunt, but I often still dream about the house, having spent so much time there growing up. I think everyone in the family misses the house as it was when she lived there. Where to begin― the red house with the white picket fence out front; the jaunty cowbells that clattered when you opened the door; the rooms filled with charming antiques?

As I have shared on this blog, my grandmother is now bravely undergoing physical therapy to recover from hip surgery. Two nights ago, I dreamed I went back to her house, but that it was all boarded up, completely covered over except for one window in the living room, which I broke into. There I was, back in her living room, which looked exactly the way it had when she lived there. I ran my fingers along the piano keys, looked at the photos on the wall, sat in the chair where my grandfather used to shine his shoes.

When I awakened, I realized what it was I was trying to do — open a metaphorical window for my grandmother whose body has been suffering with pain and “boarded up” by the pins in her hip, the sling on her shoulder, the confinement of her bedsheets. In my dream, I was honoring the eternal home my grandmother made for me, one that transcends furnishings and is a state of mind: the idea of a welcoming, epic home, one filled with charm, beauty and a measure of humility, too; one that welcomes everyone in.

Arguably the greatest epic of all time is The Odyssey. And what is it our hero Odysseus learns after his journeys to both harrowing and enticing locales? That he wants to get home, or in the words of the Wizard’s Dorothy, “there’s no place like” it. It’s one of the greatest discoveries we can make: our eternal home is the end-goal and one of the greatest quests in this life: to make a place to live that reminds one of that fact; not a house simply impressive for the sake of impressing or just an easy place to hang your hat and take off your shoes, but a house so filled with meaning that anyone who enters can feel something special there, and want to return. A worthy ambition: to make a home that, on its humble scale — anticipates heaven.

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Billie Holiday - Back In Your Own Backyard

The artist's garden at Vétheuil - Claude Monet
The artist’s garden at Vétheuil – Claude Monet

Leda and Shooting Stars

As my trip approaches,
sleep-patterns alter.
Last night I dreamed
I sat on the back of a huge swan,
white the color of jasmine rice.
Soft plumage fanned against my body
as I clung to the long neck
like Leda on the back of Zeus.
We flew together through the blue-black sky—
and the stars were clearer, closer
than I’ve ever observed them before.
I’ve never seen a shooting star,
I said aloud, but always wanted to.
Just then one fell before me, in a rush—
then another, and the next,
each a stark snowflake,
a mirror-ball.
Then the sky turned still,
and very slowly,
the constellation of a house—
a pointed roof, two windows and a door—
glided before me.

I cannot say for certain why
I knew when I awakened
the feeling of feathers
pressed against flesh
would remain.

I’m still looking for the house—
somewhere near Orion, or the Pleiades.

— Annabelle Moseley