Tuesday, September 16, 2008


What is home?

Is it a structure? Is home the building you live in now, or one you lived in at another time in your life?

Is it what you put into the structure, in the individual rooms? Does being surrounded by lovingly worn objects passed down to you from your parents or grandparents give you a sense of stability? Maybe something your father gave your mother in a moment of celebration, or gifts or art children made with small hands and gave you as they were growing up. Or maybe special books you've thumbed time and again, wearing the edges to threads?

Is home a place? The way the light bounces off water, or how it is filtered through leaves in a certain landscape? Does waking up to mountains on the horizon, or hearing a car pull onto your gravel driveway make you feel at home? Do you prefer a cityscape with crowds, lights and street noises?

Is home family, or certain loved ones? (Ohh, I see we need a new family picture with Brian included. This one was taken in 2005 by my nephew Mark - Ginnie's son - on the frozen lake. That's our family cottage to the left of Peter's head in the photo, up on the hill. That place really feels like home to me, because of all the family memories. Also, it is the closest we have to a homestead since my parents passed away, and our big extended family still gathers there twice a year.)

And how do you know it's home? Is it a feeling of warmth in a place that puts you at ease with yourself more than anywhere else?

I have never felt more at home than here at the farm, where we have lived less than five years. Our children also seem to feel a sense of home here unlike any of the eleven (that's 11, yes, 10 + 1) houses they've lived in, even though Lesley never lived here and Peter only lived here a few months in college. To answer my questions, I feel at home anywhere with my loving husband, and that grows stronger when the kids are home. I feel at home here at the farm because of the outdoor space - the way the trees are situated, the way the house windows face the land and old buildings, how the land slopes down to the meadow and woods, and the way the rustling poplar leaves in a strong wind are audible all the way to the house porch. I also feel at home with the heirlooms I grew up with, and seeing my children's art on the walls and Lesley's fabric projects draped on furniture.

If all this were taken from me, and I had to live with a minimum, I would hope for:

  • a pen, a pad of paper, books on a wooden table, a comfortable chair, something beautiful to look at (art, photograph, fabric, a piece of pottery), something old that belonged to someone I love/d, and a view to the outdoors
I'd love to hear what makes you feel a sense of home.


Amy - "Twelve Acres" said...

What a wonderful family portrait! Home to me is so many things, but mostly it's a sense of being where I belong. The sights, sounds and scents of home all bring me comfort. Home is where I am completely myself, free of the constraints and stress of the outside world.

Thanks for getting me to think about this topic. It sure added to the peaceful day I've been having!

Loring Wirbel said...

Three levels of importance:

First, home is loved ones nearby. With Abby gone, we live with her artifacts everywhere. I often wondered, if I outlived Carol, would I enjoy solitude or need to be around others? Not sure.

Second, soil. I have felt very much at home in the southwest - Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado. The details beyond that are irrelevant. We've been in Colorado for almost 20 years, but Albuquerque and Phoenix and the White Mountains seem just as familiar. I still miss mid-Michigan a lot, but even growing up there, I thought my cousin's house in New Mexico felt more like home. As for the building that constitutes home, it's a turtle shell, great for its comfort and interiors, but not as important.

Third, artifacts. I am a total packrat for objects with emotional significance, but when something gets ruined or stolen, I don't grieve. They're just things. Right now, I'm surrounded by an "I Heart Grand Ledge" construction hat, a painting of Abby's, a "Drive Out the Bush Regime" bandana, a golden sun mask, a Fleet Enema doll. I would cherish them on a desert island, but let them go if they were swept away.

Mrs. M. said...

home for me is a sense of belonging, not a structure.

it is being with people i love, my husband and children most. it is intimate friends and a close extended family. i think the structure contains the relationships that move freely in and out.

there are some people i feel more at home with than others. some that pick up where we may have been interrupted for various reasons. i am reminded of a saying:

"home is where the heart is"

Sharon said...

Oh, gosh,
I'm going to go with Loring's levels and I couldn't agree more about soil. I had never been to Wyoming when we decided to move here but I remember crossing the border and immediately being overwhelmed with the peace that I was where I belonged. It wasn't just the austerity of the terrain either, it was more than that as we had just spent the last day traveling across South Dakota which is equally barren and not at all "home". Every time I have traveled from here I have had that same, very physical reaction when returning. I sigh of relief, of being home.

My second criteria for home is Larry, his presence, his arms. Because of our age differences I always assume (probably wrongly!!!) that I will outlive him and that in some small way I will never be home again.

Home is also the forest and animal life but as for "stuff" beyond comforts (running water/plumbing/heat etc.) I don't find "things" necessary.

Strangely, Zoe isn't home to me....she is more intrinsic than that.....I feel the need to be home FOR's different.

Don said...

There is something about the "right place" when it comes to feeling at home. I agree with Loring and Sharon that their are levels, and the people I need with/near me. But when some of those people move far away, I still have that home feeling. Maybe being the older generation makes me feel like the nest.

VioletSky said...

I noticed that we were both writing about 'home', but I had to think about yours a bit.

For me, I have found 2 places that I rented (I've always rented) that immediately felt like home. When the trees outside the first place were chopped down I started to resent the inadequacies that I could ignore before, and I realized how important it was to have even a bit of nature to look at out my windows. And I definitely find comfort in having certain things around me, books, glassware, pictures that remind me of who I am and that I am in my own space.

I do a lot of visiting to clients homes and there are some who I visit where I feel totally at ease and happy just being in their home and there are a couple that make me anxious the whole time I am there, even though I like the people who live there.

I would love to have more of my friends and family near me, but experience has proven that just because they live nearby doesn't mean they will become a part of my home (i.e. visiting).

Rauf said...

oh ! What ?
i am glad there is an 'M' in home. Not bad Ruth, English language is not as bad as i thought.
Mom, mummy, Maa, Ammay Mother. Mutter is German ? Thats bad i don't like it. But there is an 'M' there thankfully.
What is mother ? Mother is nearly everything.
Life with mother is all we remember when we die Ruth. mother tongue, mother country, mother nature, mother earth.
oh dear ! this is heavy on me.
Home is where mom is.

i was lucky i lived with mom until she died, she died in my arms, i poured water in her mouth when she was dying. i closed her mouth i kissed her i closed her eyes. i did not cry, i cried after 2 days. That was my home. Its all one Ruth, The earth, the tree, the city, the country, the world. Home. Mother everywhere.

Home is where i spent half my life sleeping ? Do we sleep half our lives Ruth ? In my case a lot more than half my life. i am so lazy, you have to drag me out.

you grow up get married and provide a home for your children. That is their home. They always look for or crave to go home, to be with you. That is all they would remember.
Home is where mom is.

Ruth said...

Thank you, all of you. Your feelings and thoughts of home are golden. They need no commentary from me. Suffice it to say, my heart is warmed.

But don't let that be a finale, if anyone else wants to tell what home is.

Sandy said...

Ruth, what a great and timely post, what with so many displaced from their homes now, and many to probably never return.

I really enjoyed reading this. You pretty much summed it up for me what is home and if you lost it what you would need.

The house I'm in now and have been for twenty-five years has pretty much everything I consider home but I know some day I'll be making a new home somewhere. Great photo of you all.

denise said...

Good question. I don't feel that Wisconsin is home at all, even though we have lived here 8 years. I always feel like I am a tourist, a visitor, biding time, passing through. Odd.

So for me it isn't as much of a place but a feeling. There have been many places where I instantly feel a connection, it moves me, and I feel at peace.

Anet said...

I'm loving all the comments! Well lets see...Home is where my family is. Lansing as gross as it is, feels like home and my stuff around me; my grandmothers buffet, my great-grandfather's protrait. Snuggling with the kids or one of the cats in the cuddling chair, that feels like home to me. Of course it always feels more like home when my husband walks in the door!

Drowsey Monkey said...

Beautiful post.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Sandy, Denise, Anet and Drowsey, for your additions.

One piece in several comments I am especially interested in is the connection and 'at home' feeling we get in other people's spaces. And sometimes the opposite, and we feel ill at ease, even if we like the people.

My sister-in-law Peggy, for as long as she can remember, even as a small girl, has been conscious of the welcoming nature - or lack of it - in whatever structures she has entered - homes, business, etc.

Ginnie said...

I think that the reason why I have always liked the quote Shari wrote ("Home is where the heart is"), however cliche it may seem, is because it's my truth. It's not usually a structure but the ethos of a place, like the cottage, your farm, Amsterdam. It may even be a country, which is weird, but I have always felt "at home" in Europe more than in the States. And I used to say that back in high school, long before I had ever been to Europe. So what is that? Is there a connection that can be felt to past lives that gives us a feel of home? Every once in awhile a person comes into my life that feels like home because it's as though I knew her before the foundations of the world. Where does that come from?

I'm guessing "where the heart is" for me has to do with loving and being loved. There is a certain comfort when you feel on the same page with another human being. That's the feeling of home for me. And in that regard, it has nothing to do with place but being. When time stands still and is eternalized.

lesleyanne said...

that really is the best family portrait, it gives such a great sense of who we are as a family, how much we love each other, and love being in each others' company. and the cottage in the background is the perfect touch.

yes, new family photos with Brian! we will certainly have some of those soon. maybe this christmas if he comes to the farm with me!

i really do feel more at home on the farm than anywhere else we've lived. i did live there, for 3 weeks before moving to NYC! does that count?? haha....probably not. home to me is a place where i feel completely at ease, i have inspiration, and a place where i can seclude myself. very soon i will know a home with a loving future husband, i can't even begin to imagine how wonderful that will be.

i miss you. and i love you.

Ruth said...

Boots, what you wrote sounds very like something Inge would say, about people, and the feeling of having known them before. I think it would be interesting, for myself, to journal while visiting a series of places and being with a series of people, and write down my feelings in this regard. It would be an interesting book if someone could express it, I think.

Ruth said...

My sweet girl, I do love our picture too. It was made even better because none of us remembered Mark taking it, and he gave it to us quite a while after the fact. I wonder what had just been said that made us so jolly at that moment? It doesn't take much. :)

I would love to do a family picture at Christmas with Brian - maybe inside, and also some outside in the snow?

Sure, 3 weeks counts! :D It was enough to make you feel it anyway.

Imagine! Establishing your own home soon. Sweetheart, it boggles my mind.

Gwen Buchanan said...

I love each and every photograph, Ruth! they all conjure up some deep emotional feeling that reaches inside...

It is such a natural desire to create a home... we all do it... monkeys do it.. birds do it.. bees do it too, and ants... pretty nearly everything does....

I mean even as a child, one of our favourite games was "playing house"...

making a cozy place where it all feels right and we belong... it makes us feel protected from the world...

It seems to be the most basic instinct... I think we could make a home anywhere.. it is a necessity...

Ruth said...

When I was little, I played with a neighbor boy named Jimmie every day. In autumn, we raked leaves in his big yard into the 'footprint' of a house, with rooms, closets, hallways, a garage (for our bikes). I don't have any fonder memories from childhood than playing house inside those leaf walls.

VioletSky said...

oooh yes, we used to do that too! and I used playing cards (several decks, I have no idea why we had so many) to do the same inside in the basement. I also used the cards to make streets for my Lego buildings.

Bob Johnson said...

Wow, beautiful pics Ruth, I'm impressed, great family shot too.

Home to me is anyplace with a telescope in it and a clear unobstructed view of my Moon,lol.

Ruth said...

Sanna, I did that, but not with playing cards. I used paper doll folders for walls, jewelry boxes for tables and sofas. And I remember pinning cloth around Barbie dolls for Greek style gowns. :D

Ruth said...

Thanks, Bob, this is a collection of photos from different times over the years and it was fun picking the ones that made me feel at home. I love that family pic too.

Now why do I think I might have guessed that about the telescope? The next question: Do you think you'd be at home on the moon?

Bob Johnson said...

For a while, you know I already have property there,lol.