Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Heart of Home

Kit and cop
The other morning, I awoke to the hissing sound of compression brakes. I thought, What's a semi doing on this tiny street? The private street, which provides access to five small houses, is a tight squeeze. I imagined a stuck semi, unable to back out.

Peeking out the window my stomach jumped: A fire engine and a cop car. Paramedics were headed to Kit and Mark's house.

Dave and I threw on our clothes, anxiously imagining all kinds of possible scenarios. Immediately we saw Kit, who filled us in.

Kit had discovered a disheveled woman in her guest house. The woman had matted hair and dirty clothes. The room reeked of alcohol and urine. Most alarmingly, her face looked like it had been beaten.

Kit asked the woman her name. Irene. Then she asked what had happened to her. Irene wasn't very coherent but Kit discerned that she lives in her car. Kit knew that Irene wasn't in any shape to continue on this way. So she called the paramedics.

What's most fascinating to me about this story is this: Irene must have known, at some level, that it was time for her to get help. She couldn't take her car anymore and sought out a bed. And the bed was in the home of Kit, a psychiatric nurse. Who better to know the best next step?

Before the paramedics wheeled her away, Irene bemoaned the fact that she had to leave the guest house. "What's a house," she said, "if not to live in?"


That struck a chord with me. We gave up our house in Santa Cruz more than four months ago to travel. Then came the left-turn we hadn't expected, my seizure and brain surgery. Percolating in my mind and heart is this very question: What is home?

I've come more deeply to understand how home is oneself. It's one's body--this amazing spacesuit--in which our essence dwells.

Yet I've also come to see how home is a soulful creation of people and experience. Home is where, in coming together, we love and feel loved.

So, paradoxically, home is both an intensely private place and a communal one.

In the past few weeks, we've experienced so much community: from spontaneous and planned parties, to neighborly chats on the beach and in each other's yards.

When we were in front of the house the morning the paramedics came, several other neighbors appeared to make sure everything was okay. Just their presence said a lot. Perhaps that's what home is: presence. Being present for each other. Being present for the self.

That night, Kit, Doreen, Dave and I shared a meal. Kit held up her glass: "To Irene."

We all pictured Irene healthy. Healed. Home.

Home is the heart.

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