Home as a Mirror of Self

For me, the concept of home has had an enduring appeal. One of my fondest childhood memories is spending rainy afternoons cutting out furniture from the Sears catalogue and creating a home, complete with the paper family who lived in it, their conversations and activities. The memory is not only of crafting the rooms but the feeling and expression of home lived through the experience of creating it – feelings of familiarity, comfort and belonging expressed in the container of a safe place.What childhood memories do you have?  What are your most enduring remembrances of your early homes?

I have lived in many homes through my life, rural and urban, large and small, remote communities and downtown condos, some 23 so far. As a child I watched my mother create inviting homes wherever we lived with a familiar style that included well-worn pieces, some treasures, and a few new elements to suit the space. As an artist, her sense of harmony and design made each home emerge out of the chaos as a comfortable place, a refuge from all the novelty in our new worlds. As I have set up my own households, I have recreated this pattern over and over again. I want my home to be an expression of who I am, the lasting aspects of my character as well as the changing elements of my own evolution as a person.

So ever since playing with those cutouts from the Sears catalogue, I have been interested in home, a student of home in all its various forms and perspectives. The topic of home for me is something like that slightly shabby chair in the corner one keeps coming back to and feels very much at home in, the one that welcomes us back with all its previous moments and provides a comfortable place to have a conversation about the future. And I realize in writing about my own experience that it is not true for everyone. For some, the experience of home is an ideal, a dream, a media concept while the reality is very different. For many children, for example, home is fraught with terror, disruption, abuse or simple neglect – realities that have a lifelong influence on their being at home in the world.

Each of us creates meaning about home, our own truth, emerging out of our past and shaping our current view and future aspirations. While embracing the fragility of humankind and our capacity for violence and harm to each other and to the planet, I would like to examine the possibilities of home as a positive force for change and development. I would like to bring the potential of home to the forefront, expanding the view to the planetary level and beyond, applying our understanding to build a global capacity to see the world as our home, to realize our common destiny and act on it for our collective survival.

I would appreciate your views on home.  How does your sense of home express who you are? What has influenced that view?  How do you define home?  Is it your physical space, your neighbourhood, your country, or the planet as a whole?

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One Response to Home as a Mirror of Self

  1. Carol MacKinnon says:

    My earliest and enduring remembrances of home are of turmoil… that there was always a move about to happen, or had just happened…sometimes into a motel, if my parents couldn’t find something to rent… and yet, within all that, a sense of some stability… my sisters and I were a unit, my parents were a unit… and being together, trying to grapple with whatever reality we were dealing with, being together made things easier, and more complicated. I remember taking on, very early, a concern for things like whether our house was tidy (my mother didn’t seem to care) or whether we HAD a house to move into (my father didn’t seem to care, so I would scour the want ads and walk by places to see if they would fit for us)… so for me the HOUSE part of home, has a lot of responsibility in it, a little security but not much joy. NOW, as I feel more powerful in creating the life I want, I realize how much power and weight I give to the notion of home, not just house…home is where I feel safe, secure, nourished, nurtured, welcomed, relaxed, able to be myself…AND it’s likely not a dwelling place, it’s more likely the external reality of who I am, that I can do this and provide this, for myself. AND I have a deep knowing that even this definition of turmoil that I lived through, is NOTHING like the turmoil my nieces from El Salvador lived through, in the civil war and in the refugee camps,…nothing like the turmoil so many children face, today….just my own definition of turmoil, and leaving its own mark on me.

    I also remember, when I was about five and just starting grade one, that we lived next door to a very grand house, with a huge barn, with lambs and calves (at least in the barn, the older animals were probably out in the pasture)… and a gracious, gentle farmer, our neighbour, Mr. Oliver Wells. I didn’t know it then, but have since learned that he was more than just our neighbour, he was also a scholar, but one of my early and treasured memories is of him finding me crying, on my way to school, as I had broken my lunchbox and thermos…and he took me into the lambing barn, and explained about the home the lambs had, with their mothers, for a few days… it was a wonderful example to me of the safe, secure, nourishing, nurturing, and welcoming place that I dreamt home could be. I can still smell it, and remember his warm embrace.

    That’s my sense of home as a personal experience….and when I am feeling most at home, on this planet, I experience some incredible resonance with smells, with sounds, with sights, with textures, that are nourishing and nurturing and welcoming to my soul.

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