Friday, July 7, 2006

The Riddle of Home

"When I finish my travels I will solve the riddle of home.
When I finish my travels, I will know the answer."
A Year In The World, Frances Mayes
I love Frances Mayes' writing. I just closed the cover on her latest, A Year In The World, and I feel as if I've traveled along with her from Istanbul to Lochleaven and everywhere in between.
It isn't just the picturesque travelogue she brings us in her books, it's her evocative writing style, rife with homey personal details about each day on the road, what she and her traveling companions eat and do, the history of the places they visit, and what it all means to her. I copied huge chunks of her writing into my own notebook, just for the pleasure of having her words flow vicariously from my own pen.
In this book, Mayes often alludes to her relationship with "home." She writes that her "profound desire for home, for the profoundly beautiful nest, the kitchen garden, the friends gathered at my table, for the candlelit baths, and the objects arranged and the books in order, and most of all the sense of this is my place - all that has been at the mercy of an equal force, the desire to shut the door, turn the key, and go. Go."
I have been wrestling with the idea of "home" for the past few days myself, as I am extremely drawn to "GO" - to France, to Florida, to England, to California, to all the places that I already know I love as well as those that are enticing me because they hold the promise of new vistas and exciting adventures. But, in equal measure, I am held back by the safety and familiarity of my own "beautiful nest," and the sense that "this is my place." It is, as Mayes puts it, an "oxymoronic desire, for the domestic and the opposite."
For me, my struggle with leaving home is deeply rooted in my upbringing, which Mayes also acknowledges is true for all of us. "The first events in your life slap you into the shape you take," she writes. When I was a child, my family never traveled- there was something mysteriously fearful about leaving home, some bad thing that would or could happen, and it just wasn't worth taking the chance. I think I still harbor the fear that, if I leave home, something "bad" will happen not to me, but to the ones I leave behind, almost as "punishment" for my wanderlust.
In spite of the fears, the wanderlust is still there. So I devour books like Mayes', filled with the images and impressions of a life so different from my own. I eagerly gobble up friends descriptions of their trips, and gaze hungrily at the photos they post on the internet. I think there is magic in traveling, in the wisdom you gain from it, the sense of personal satisfaction, the possibilities it opens in your mind. Mayes concludes her narrative by saying that her travels are like the gift of a "transforming angel: you go out, far out, and when you return, you have the power to transform your life." As much as I love my backyard these days, I also have a huge appetite for life transformation. I just need the courage to get up from the table and partake of the feast.


Blogger deirdre said...

Oh, I understand the fear of leaving home to go elsewhere. I love travel, want to do it, have done it, will always do it, and still there is that tinge of fear. The fear of not being allowed to come home again sits in my belly while I pack. Everytime.

Blogger Star said...

"I copied huge chunks of her writing into my own notebook, just for the pleasure of having her words flow vicariously from my own pen." I do this too, in part to feel the pleasure of writing such beautiful passages that I have either not had the experience to write or not found the words to express what I want to say in just such a way. But another reason is that they say writing things down helps us to remember better (and I need all the help there is in that area!)

"I eagerly gobble up friends descriptions of their trips, and gaze hungrily at the photos" Yup; I do this also. It's as if I am living their experience as I hear it and see their pictures. Most people just pass the photos along as they are being shared. I pore over them, searching out all the details, asking questions, imagining what it must have been like to be there.

I think my biggest drawback to exploring the world out there results from two main things: 1) travel beyond the US brings visions of stolen passports/visas, rotting in jail waiting for someone to notice I never returned home, and 2) the fear that if we spend our limited disposable income to go on a vacation I will not enjoy it as much as anticipated and regret having spent the money on that vacation and will miss out on something that surely would have been wonderful if I'd chosen that destination instead. (A la this post about my not wanting to use up the things I love the most and when all is said and done, they have gone unused and brought no pleasure, only the security of knowing they are still there if I should ever need them under more desperate circumstances.)

I am confident that you'll work through the pros and cons of moving and vacationing in your own time and feel contentment once the decisions are made.

Blogger paris parfait said...

I love Frances Mayes's book too. And your writing is beautiful! Tara xo

Blogger jzr said...

What you write is oh so familiar. I travel alot and each time I go through the fear and remember how the last time I went out into the big world, I came home a new person, filled with new insight ... and home became even more special to me then.

Without the leaving, there is no returning and appreciation becomes something that slips from our minds.

Blogger Britt-Arnhild said...

I have travelled since I was a small girl and hope to keep on till I die :-)


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