Having lived for quite some time as a homeless person, the concept of ‘home’ interests me. What is it? It’s a thing that seems deeply important and yet I am not sure that I understand what defines a ‘home’?
When I was homeless I felt myself to be more ‘at home’ on the banks of a river or by a hedgerow than I did in towns and cities. I felt comfort in some places and discomfort in others and over time came to equate the word ‘home’ with the word ‘comfort’. However, I felt most comfortable while I was walking. Not going from one place to another, not aiming to get anywhere, just walking. The act of walking alone in silence is a meditative act, the rhythm of stepping, the sounds and scents bring a person into an appreciation of the moment that is being lived through.
When I stayed in one place, made camp for anything more than a couple of nights, that place would inevitably start to accumulate paraphernalia. I would sort out some kind of seating, a crate or a stump, In the long evening I made things, a shelter from my tarp strung between a couple of trees. Even ornaments, twisting sticks together with string to make a star, things that could be considered ‘my things’. Instinctively or just to pass time I began to build a nest, a home. Then came fantasies of building a fire and getting a torch so I could find a book and read at night. As I noticed the accumulation of stuff and the desire for more stuff I became quite fearful for it, afraid of losing it but also saddened by it. I realised that I was trying to replicate what I had been thinking of as ‘normal’. I decided to abandon the feelings of sadness and the desire to be ‘normal’. Knocked it down and left. It was better to have nothing. There was less to worry about, I still had to find food, I still had to stay clean and healthy I didn’t want to add sadness to my troubles.
The path became my home, that was where I felt comfortable and at peace. For much of the time there were no questions, there was just being in the world, like the birds and hedgehogs, no territory to defend and interestingly no intellectual territory to defend either, no personal philosophical or political position to fight for. There was nothing to fight for or run from. Few earthly concerns other than finding food and getting out of the rain when it came and staying warm at night and wondering what life was for. No books, no teachers, no television, just my own thoughts to play with when I was walking or lying under a tarp and looking at the stars or under a rhododendron bush or a tree when it rained.
I came to understand that ‘home’ was not a place, it was a feeling and furthermore that feeling came as all feelings do, from the inside, it was my feeling that I created and owned.
Now I have a house, and possessions but they are not home they are playthings, stuff. At the moment those things are inaccessible, on the other side of the sea, in a place I cannot get to because of the pandemic. I am not in my ‘home’. But I do feel ‘at home’ because home is a feeling that I carry inside. I am not going home, I am never going home, how could I go somewhere if I am already there?