So. Did I just get home, or am I just about to leave?
And where is my home, anyway?
At first I flew into Portland, spent a few days with some best friends. I then took a bus down to Eugene, my home. Well, supposed home. It now feels a little ill-fitting, as if there is some personality requirement I’m missing which would otherwise fill out the garment.
This weekend, after spending a week and a half in Eugene which seemed, somehow, like a month, I took the train up to Seattle to surprise some more great friends, Chelsea and Zac, for Chelsea’s birthday party. I have spent very little time in Seattle, and when I did go up there it was to watch the Mariners lose spectacularly at least once a year. I still wear my Jojima t-shirt all the time. BUT – I know the city of Seattle as well as I know Calculus: we have a passing, apathetic acquaintance sprinkled with a touch of labor-induced attachment.
So, we don’t know each other very well.
After getting lost trying to find Chelsea and Zac’s place, counting down cross-streets and apartment numbers, I showed up at Chelsea’s door, and I was home.
These are my people. I was with them, I was home. Different place, but who cares? They are my people.
And then Chelsea lent me her cross bike and cycling gear. We were going on an afternoon ride. As Zac adjusted the seat of Chelsea’s bike for me, and I stood kitted up in a Whitman jersey and bibs, which a Bell helmet on and Shimano shoes, none of them mine and none of them my size, in a foreign apartment, about to go out and ride a new route, I was completely comfortable. I was in my element. My people, my sport, my country.
I hadn’t seen Chelsea or Zac for over a year, I was out of cycling shape, and the US was still weirding me out a little. But this situation was purely mine and I loved fitting into it perfectly.
The next day (Saturday) I took a Greyhound bus from Seattle to Walla Walla. Again, home. Debi picked me up from the Pasco (Pasco!) bus station, with blueberries (blueberries!), and Klicker (KLICKER!) blueberries at that, and it was as if I’d never left Walla Walla. We chatted, exchanged stories, just exactly the same as last summer. I got to their home, and we ate an AMAZING dinner, which is the norm in Debi & Jim’s house. Luke and Lizzy, two Whittie friends and fellow Whitman cyclists, came over and we talked bikes for HOURS. I wasn’t up to date on the Tour, the Whitman cycling team, or any of my favorite riders, but damn, I talked bikes just fine. The jargon came back, the riders’ names as well. Again, as if I hadn’t left.
I got to see so many people dear to me: Whittie friends, professors, old colleagues, family. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. Every person I saw, I could have spoken with for hours more. All these people: I get to know them? I get to have good relationships with them as a friend, a student, a teacher, a mentor, a “mentee,” a niece, a daughter. All these incredible people want to take time out of their day and spend it with me!
Wow, I’m lucky.
And on Friday, I’m flying to Tuscon to visit my grandpa (GRANDPA!!!) for 4 days, and then I’m leaving the country.
So have I come home? Well, if I say that Eugene is my home, then not really. I’ll have only spent 2 weeks there. And it doesn’t totally feel like home anymore. (Most of my high school friends have dispersed across the country. There’s not much of my once-was community still in that city) But then I was in Portland and Seattle, where my people are (though I’ve never lived in either city), and Walla Walla, where I made my home during Whitman. So I kind of visited 4 homes, 4 microcosms of myself. And soon I’m off to visit a few more little homes.
I’ve started to wonder: are my homes my people? The places are wonderful, and I love to see the green mountains and know all the streets, and all the restaurants, and the rivers and random passersby.
It’s not my whole home anymore. It’s a home. It’s a split, and as I split my time between so many places, and make a home for myself in each place, I both fall in love more with each home, and each home becomes less all-important to me. For example, I’m loving Eugene more because I see what it’s given me and how fragile it is. It’s a great home, but it’s a singular place. Singular: both extraordinary, and separate. And so are all of my other homes. All extraordinary, and all so separate from one another.
Each place is whole on its own. And Eugene, which used to be my WHOLE life, is now a part of my life. A fraction of it. And as such, it seems smaller. I’m looking at it from a distance. At times it’s ill-fitting.
But it’s not MINE anymore. And frankly, a few weeks there was enough. I don’t know why, but though I originally wanted to spend two months in Eugene before I left for Nicaragua, two weeks was pretty adequate. It’s seemed a lot longer.
It’s a lilypad. A jumping-off point. Good to rest on momentarily, but essentially a glorified diving board.
I’m still working out how I feel about this, but for now I know that I’m much more comfortable leaping from one lilypad to another, making many homes in many places, than I would be staying in one place indefinitely.