catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 11, Num 15 :: 2012.07.20 — 2012.08.02


Places, spaces and landscapes of home

Sometimes I feel envious of those who live in small towns with most of their significant friends and family contained within their neighborhood, with common togetherness shared on random Tuesdays and mediocre Thursdays and not just traditional holidays.  I wonder what it’s like to enjoy that simple sense of wholeness, to have everyone who is important to you growing roots in one place. 

My own experience of place in the last seven years has been one of straddling two worlds: Chicago and Cape Town.  The memories pile high as each land becomes more meaningful to me, giving the opportunity to adapt to very different versions of familiarity, yet also constantly holding the feeling of missing out on the other place.  And so I live in the tension.

As I explore the relationship between people and place and how that affects one’s sense of belonging, I realize the connections between people make a place special.  It’s because that space becomes a container for memories, the location of where the connection between was cherished.  Maybe it could have happened anywhere.  It’s not that specific space in and of itself that is significant, but rather the people who enjoyed each other’s company made it that way. 

My thoughts about home are shifting in the sense of putting more weight on creating a home rather than discovering one.  A home, therefore, becomes a meaningful place because of who I share it with.  A house is merely a container for relationships.  As time goes by and memories build on the foundation, the place holds more meaning, but the root meaning lies in the relationship, not the space.  So the house can burn down or people can move away, and even though there is great loss that comes with that, all is not lost.  Home can be made anywhere, somewhere familiar or foreign; because, perhaps, the belonging to home that we need is more tied to who is our home, rather than where.  Place is important for our physical lives, and yet it is meant to serve our relationships. 

A few months ago I hoped that one day I would be at peace with calling one shore home, to live in a place long enough to grow a garden, for my commitments and heart to be rooted in one place exclusively.  I moved back to Chicago recently and my current season is about giving settling in America a chance, and yet I cannot merely cross off the significance of the other place.  My relationships and connections back in Cape Town continually draw my heart halfway back.  Is it that my heart is divided between two places?  Or that I have the wonderful opportunity to expand my perspective of home to include two diverse landscapes with all the scattered deep relationships in between?  Perhaps I need to let go of this limiting dream of one place.

And could it be that this ache for finding wholeness and belonging in one place will never be fulfilled in this life?  Maybe our longing for completeness is only reserved for the space between us and God.  As Craig Barnes writes, “Whether we want to admit it or not, the longing for home is welling up from the soul.  This may be the most enduring trace of God upon our lives.”  

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