“Where we love is home—home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.” (Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.)
Earlier this year, I paid a visit to England, where I was born, raised and lived for many years. Ever since then, I’ve been reflecting on what “home” means.
I think of England as home. It’s where my family connections are, my classmates and other friends who go back to childhood; the buildings, places, climate are completely familiar to me, and there is something very comforting about being somewhere that feels so comfortably a part of who I am.
I’ve now lived in Minnesota for 15 years, and on past visits to my England home, coming back to the U.S. was always hard. I found it difficult to leave people, and I knew I’d miss the familiarity of how the country is, and how it functions. In some way, returning to the monastery seemed like coming home because it was where I now lived, but it was a kind of diluted homecoming because I always felt pulled back by the ties of England.
This last visit, though, felt different. Because of COVID, it was the first time I’d gone back for three years. I was more conscious of change. I knew in my head that several people had died who were very special to me, but because I’m not there all the time, there was a part of my heart that expected they’d somehow be present. It was odd to be in England and realize that it wasn’t only physical distance that separated us now; they were simply not there anymore. Also, places that were once familiar had become less familiar. Buildings were demolished, new ones built, and city centers redesigned. Places that I once knew like the back of my hand could now make me feel like a stranger. And, as in the U.S., there have been a lot of political ups and downs and that had subtly changed the feel of the country.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved my visit and England certainly still has a place in my heart. However, I discovered that you can feel that more than one place is home. After you’ve lived in a different place for a while, it starts to take on a familiarity, you build relationships, adjust to the climate, look forward to particular holidays that you never celebrated before; you feel comfortable with how things work and you realize that this, too, is home.
So, when my feet leave Minnesota to go to England, my heart doesn’t entirely leave, just as some of my heart never leaves England. And when I make the return journey, I’m now conscious that I’m leaving somewhere I love, but I’m leaving it to come HOME. And I’m really grateful that home isn’t an “either/or” but a “both/and” and that my heart is big enough to love both my homes.
Karen Rose, OSB