Today — the day of winter solstice in the northern hemisphere — it reached 50F in central New Hampshire, and it rained all day. On top of 6-12 inches of snow that’s been sitting on the ground for weeks. Which equals a lot of fog.
I’m hopeful that we’ll keep some snow for Christmas and see a fresh snowfall in a week or two. But meanwhile, even in spring-like weather, I’m taking 10 days to focus on the idea of “home” for a Winter Solstice creativity challenge on Facebook, whose theme is “Returning Home:”
“What is ‘home’ to you? Are you ‘home’ now? Or do you have a longing to ‘return’ to a place of origin (physically or spiritually)? Can we be assured of a safe return? Is there any assurance at all? Is home a static or fluid place? Does home reside internally or in the people we know? Is home God, nature, or some felt infinite spirit source? Could home be each moment, each breath, each step? What music, colors, images, experiences represent home to you?”
It’s hosted by Ruth Schowalter (who is travelling in Morocco at the moment! yes, I’m envious) and open to all interested.
As some of you know, I’m looking at moving to another locale, perhaps a town in Lower or Outer Cape Cod, or far northeastern Florida (Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island). Or perhaps another town, as yet unknown or discounted by me. At one point, places in Rhode Island, Maine, Delaware, South Carolina, and Georgia have all been in contention. All I really know is that I want to be within 1-2 miles of saltwater (salt marsh, bay, or ocean), in a walkable/bikeable community, with lots of green space and trails, about an hour or so from a big city (like Boston or Jacksonville), with good health insurance and healthcare options, and with good transportation options (Amtrak, local transit, buses and trains to the city).
The ocean feels like returning home to me. Returning to saltwater. Walking and not driving feels like returning home, to childhood anyway. The “home” I seek includes a community with a local bookstore, coffee shops where you can lounge with friends for an hour or two, wine bars and restaurants, a farmstand or CSA, a good public library with inter-library loan availability, good veterinarians and medical professionals nearby. And saltwater, which is what’s missing from the home I have. It’s funny (maybe) but the house itself doesn’t matter as much as the place: the amenities of the place, the terrain of the place, and mostly the feeling of the place.
People matter, too. It’s hard to think about leaving friends where I live now. I’ve lived 500+ miles away from most of my family for 25 years, and that’s difficult at times. But I know that I can maintain satisfying long-distance friendships and connections, and I can meet new people, make new friends, and form meaningful community, a second family, around myself. I’ve lived a peripatetic life, by choice and otherwise.
Many friends have moved away from the place I live now, and others will move away, to be near grandkids, to find suitable retirement facilities or climates, or for other reasons. Farewells are sad; but I’m also happy to wave goodbye to people who are pulled in heart and soul to another place.
Everything changes as long as we live. I have faith that true connections hold, over time, over distance.
Those are some of my thoughts about home on this winter solstice, shortest day, longest night of the year.
And here are some of the places in which, and people (and dog and cat) with whom, I’ve recently spent the winter solstice (which is usually on the 21st, every few years on the 22nd). As Ruth asks: “Does home reside internally or in the people we know? … Could home be each moment, each breath, each step?”
2018: NH, appreciating local businesses
2017: NH, with good friends and good food, at a tapas party and enjoying the CSA share, while the new cat settles in:
2016: Fernandina Beach, FL
2015: Jekyll Island, GA
2014: NH, snowshoeing and enjoying the sunroom stove
2013: on the train
2012: Home in NH
2011: NH, the last winter with our dog, Gretchen
And a Solstice party with friends:
2010: on the train again
2009: First Solstice in NH
2008: Last winter in Bath, Maine
… and then skipping just a few years back :-),
1993: In the Caribbean, on the party boat “Explorer” off St. Maarten
Happy Solstice to you, whatever your weather, wherever you are: home, returning home, away from home, at home anywhere.