This is a column about love, about people and places that make me smile. In previous columns I have told you about my family. I have written about books I’ve read and places I have travelled. Today, I want to tell you about home.
My world is filled with multiple homes. There are the homes of childhood, rooms in Minsk and Bulgaria and San Francisco and New Delhi that I marked as mine with stickers and posters and lists and letters. There is the home of growing up, a place in Texas I lived in during high school and college and beyond. This home is a time capsule I still return to every once in a while, a place where I will always be a child. Here, I fully exploit this home’s greatest gift: the unconditional love of my mother. Here, she makes me breakfast and does my laundry and changes the sheets, while I spend my days reading and sleeping and Facebooking.
And then there’s the home I’m currently sitting in. My body is in shadow, and my feet are soaking sunlight. It is October, so nearby, a man plucks buds off of marijuana plants and rolls them between his palms. He’s going to scrape the sticky resin left on his skin into sticks of hash the size of a pencil. A forest of pine stands in front of me, pock-marked with a few scattered houses.
Home is a room in this village, a place which is stuck at the ever evolving intersection of nature and modernity. Three hills down, a lone tower stands like a needle. When it’s completed, all the surrounding villages will have access to high speed Internet.
Here, the disconnectivity feels both humbling and terrifying. It forces me to read more, to walk more, to write more. In this home, I cook my breakfast, clean my clothes, and change the sheets because no one else will. Here, I am accountable to no one but myself.
When I first moved here two years ago, it was a responsibility I took seriously, as an adventure in self-sustenance. Now, it is simply something essential, a part of life that is neither valued nor acknowledged but simply done, because food has to be eaten and floors have to be cleaned. Life has to be lived. It feels like my home, because I oil its gears. And when I’m away, I miss the oiling. Home as a place, for me, is never permanent. But through the belonging I feel with its rooms and walls, I learn a bit more about myself. This home has taught me how to be alone without feeling lonely, how to put out forest fires when no fire department exists, how to keep both warm and cool at the cusp of winter. It’s quite simple, really. Keep your body in the shade and your feet in the sun.