Where is Home?
















My adventures have taken me on a tour of the province of Alberta (in Canada, for those of you reading outside the country) these past weeks: from the Calgary Stampede, to hiking and exploring in Kananaskis Country. Visiting the lovely town of Canmore in the Rocky Mountains, and the rather eclectic Strathmore to the east of Calgary, amid rolling acres of canola fields. North to the city of Edmonton, south east to Drumheller, south to Medicine Hat. These have been weeks of stunning natural beauty, and perhaps the putting aside of some stereotypes…

It certainly is true that many Albertans drive big trucks, and often in a parking lot I can never find my little truck upon my return, because the behemoths all around effectively hide the thing. And the Calgary Stampede certainly lives up to its reputation as a Wild West show – enough said. The skies are gloriously big here, and the thunder and lightning storms absolutely epic to watch on the prairies, as was the tornado approaching me while hiking north of Drumheller (it missed me, fortunately). One of the crowning glories was certainly watching a prairie sunrise, which turned the sky an amazing array of colours, and left me quite breathless. The variety of landscapes, the many wonderful and quirky small towns, endless miles of mostly-flat highways have made for easy and fun road tripping. Here in the oil capital of Canada, wind turbines and solar panels are numerous; perhaps most interestingly, I find this province more progressive than the one I was born in, in spite of its reputation for conservatism.

I am not really speaking in a political sense here, but more of a general impression which is vague and amorphous, to be sure. I find a love of land, something that often seems to be missing in my home place: people being attached to their urban or suburban routines with lip service to the beauty around them. It seems to me that rootedness in the land, the geography, the play of nature is one of the reconnections we must make to move out of the morass of climate change, for starters, but perhaps also reconnections we must make to root our governments, our economies, our ways of life in an ethos of place. Places for people…

For while I cannot call this place ‘home’, I can say that I feel at home, though what that means is anybody’s guess, I suppose. I think it is something I must keep exploring and discovering for myself…

And right now, my imaginary friend, I am in another province, and a secret place, where the stars shine for me and my love, together. Perhaps I must invoke that hoary cliché “home is where the heart is”, because in the arms of my love, and under any stars, feels deeply comfortable.


The Substance of Words


A vast array of words and images and sounds flow to us and around us, indeed, saturate us with their possibilities, but we cling to the superficial for reasons unfathomable. The great mysteries and wonders of life: the building of a home, the crafting of a living, the making of love, the finding of joy – these are reduced to the banal. As if the purchase of a sofa will have to stand in for the idea that home is the centre of life, the place that nurtures us and nourishes us to take our place in the world with confidence and quiet certitude of own worth. That a paycheque should take the place of a slow mastery of craft or trade or vocation, of years spent in the immensely satisfying pursuit of knowledge or technique or art. That celebrities become the models for desire; love does require a willingness to enter in to the spirit of discovery over and over again, while desire requires only a new object for itself. That entertainment is the way we persuade ourselves we are happy, rather than finding joy in the day’s, or season’s simple pleasures…

We are mostly all in the same boat, we humans – life is a mystery to be experienced. There is no prescription, no playbook, no golden road to follow…but we do not talk about these things. We do not talk about these things in significant communal or cultural ways; indeed, we do not much make a habit of talking about these things as individuals, except perhaps in the most intimate of conversations with carefully-chosen others. And this seems to me to be a matter of great sorrow and distress.

There are those who would have us believe that there is a rule book, and perhaps that is why we have come to accept words over substance…or why some of us have, at any rate. As for me, my imaginary friend, I want the meal that follows the menu, and I want the substance of what the words convey. We must have some notion of what home, work, love mean to us as individuals, and to have meaningful conversations about this as individuals. Without the conversations, we feel ourselves playing outside the rules – we mark ourselves as unhappy because we have not followed the rules. Truth is, western culture is deeply unhappy…and if the rule book once existed, it has become obsolete. It is clearly so pervasive as to be far beyond the individual…and yet, the paradox is that we can perhaps only resolve this by the individual conversations we create and participate in.

As always, your conversation is welcome here.