What is home? As someone who lives in a car, someone who has been referred to as “homeless” on more than one occasion, this is something I am constantly trying to define. Many people use the word “home” to refer to the house they grew up in as a child. Others to describe the apartment they live in downtown or the house they recently bought with a driveway and backyard. The dictionary defines home as “the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household”.
When I think of home, I don’t think of white picket fences, cul-de-sacs, or neat rows of mailboxes. Instead, I think of waking up to cotton candy clouds swirling above the mountains as first light gently traces the contours of the land. I linger in the warmth of my sleeping bag until golden light begins to warm my face. Home to me is not permanent, but dynamic and ever changing. It is anywhere I can breathe deeply and fill my lungs with sweet mountain air.
My backyard is vast. Summers find it brilliantly colored with silver lupine, Indian paintbrush, and larkspur. The light perfume of sagebrush fills the air after rain showers give way to sapphire skies. With the changing of seasons, I trade in the stark white bark of quaking aspen for the oversized trunks of giant sequoias. Large cones from ponderosa pine litter my sidewalk, and I often wake to a dusting of pine needles atop my car. When the naked trees begin to quiver with dropping temperatures and the top of puddles turn to crystal, I drive until I see the silhouette of twisted Joshua trees waving to me on the horizon – welcoming me home.
I don’t believe that home has to necessarily be a place; I think it’s often a feeling. Like drinking a cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter morning, you can feel warmth filling up inside you. Treasured memories triggered by smell or touch create the same feeling of warmth within. Compassion, acceptance, conversant – these all make up the abstract structure I call home.