01 June 2008

Homeward bound

I signed up for Nablopomo this month because I was actually going to put the blog on hiatus until I get life sorted, but why should I do anything reasonable like put aside my blog? The theme for the month is Home. Beats the hell out of lists. I hope.

This is how Webster's defines home:

one's place of residence
the social unit formed by a family living together
congenial environment
place of origin

The etymology is varied and draws from a variety of languages. The one that interests me the most is the Greek ktizein, to inhabit.

My place of residence is a ranch house in Orange County. As ranch houses go, it could be much worse, but ranch houses are fairly boring. Ours has a bit of arts and crafts flair because I like the purity of line and design. Were I to win the lottery, I'd head back to Pasadena and find myself a lovely Greene & Greene, even though I don't see myself spending too much more of my life in California.

Still, as houses go, this one is ok, and will be even better when I get the other half remodeled and the front garden pulled out. I'm working on that. This house is old by O.C. standards, which is to say it is older than I am. When moving down here from Los Angeles became inevitable, and we started looking at all the little prefab communities with their stucco-covered, cookie-cutter domiciles with 2.3 prescribed trees and shrubberies, I actually sat in the car and cried because I could not imagine myself in the sort of house where one can hold hands through the master bathroom window with the next door neighbor. That's how close the houses are to one another. Six bedrooms on a 5,000 sq. ft. lot.

And some people just love that lifestyle. That's fine, and they are welcome to it. I say that very sincerely because I know there are a lot of people who would not enjoy my quiet and private life.

We found an older neighborhood, which is very congenial and filled with good people. I have an enormous Italian stone pine in the very large back garden that keeps the house cool in summer, and is home to redtail hawks. My yard is filled with flowers and phoebes, and most recently a western bluebird.

I have some nice weeds, too. Just one of many reasons that the blog needed to go on hiatus. I have to do something about those weeds since they believe they have divine right in the procreation department.

I also have two seriously dreadful bathrooms filled with the height of 1950s and 1960s technology and plumbing, one of which was delightfully remodeled about 1979 with orange tile and smoked glass mirrors. All it needs is a disco ball.

But I also have a room filled with books and comfortable chairs and a fireplace and French doors that look out on the flowers in the back. It still needs something, but there is a sense of comfort in that room.

Orange County creates a supreme sense of dislocation in my head. Although L.A. is weird, I feel far more at home there than I do here, despite living here for 10 years. I know how to get around now, though it took time. I have the L.A. freeway map emblazoned in my brain, and it all makes sense. No freeway here makes sense, so I stay on the roads, which are laid out on a grid, have speed limits of 60 mph and get me where I need to go.

For a very long time, I walked into this ranch house and felt like a stranger. Getting rid of a huge, ugly built-in entertainment center helped to make it more mine, though I can't say why that thing distressed me to the extent it did. It's gone on to a happy life in the home of the man who did the demolition for phase 1, and we are all very content with that arrangement.

But is this place my home? Not in the sense of a place that I yearn for when I'm gone. I can be comfortable here, and though it was some time before I felt known within these walls, I've never felt unwelcome. If anything, I felt welcome the first time I walked in the front door.

And yet...

When I think of home, I'm not sure I think of an actual place. I've lived in many places; for years, I rarely stayed at one address for very long.

Many people say that home is where the heart is; for me, I think that perhaps home is where my head is. As those I care about tend to be scattered about, peripatetic like me, I think my heart, too, is fragmented.

Go listen to some good music: "Homeward Bound" from the album Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme by Simon and Garfunkel.

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