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Vol 19|No 8| June|2023

Google Map showing the location of my home in Istanbul during 2020-2021.

Where is home?

by Jamie McKenzie
(about author)

Where is home?

Some people are born in one town, attend school and university in that same town, marry there, work and raise a family there, retire there and finally are put to rest in a cemetery not far from the hospital where it all started.

When asked, “Where is home?” these people find it easy to answer.

“This town,” they will smile. The question requires little thought.

I grew up on the water in Connecticut, but I don't think of that as home.

For many people, especially for those who have moved often throughout their lives, that question "Where is home?" can prove complex and daunting.

When I was living in eastern Europe — Bucharest, Varna and Istanbul — my three cats and I had to move every 90 days because of visa requirements. When asked, where is home? I found it very difficult to answer. Did they want to know which town I was born in?

in my own mind, home is a state of mind, a feeling of well-being and comfort. I could feel at home in Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, or the USA. For me, the important issue was my mood and the comfort I felt in a particular home with my three cats. For me, home was portable — a moveable feast, I suppose.

Even though I was born in Connecticut, I have rarely returned to my hometown. The one time I visited about 20 years ago, I found the village of Old Greenwich transformed in ways that were fitting for a New Yorker cartoon, especially a restaurant where I sometimes sneaked out from school for lunch. It had been gentrified and turned into a posh bistro.

Look homeward angel? Easier said than done.

Living in Denver for the past two years with my three cats has made me feel comfortable and at home. When somebody asks me, “Where is home?” I usually tell them, “Here.”

Sometimes they try to correct me. “I mean where do you come from originally?”

That, of course, is a much different question.

In 2014, thinking I was moving to the Philippines for good, I sold most of my possessions, including 900 books. I ended up staying there only five months, but during that time I lived in a very pleasant Western style apartment with my two cats, and I felt very much at home. I returned to the USA in search of employment, but I was never homesick — “experiencing a longing for one's home during a period of absence from it.”

In 2017 I moved to Sochi in Russia, again thinking this was forever. I settled with my two cats in a wonderful apartment and felt very much at home. I got to know some local Russian people and enjoyed many runs through a beautiful town, sometimes along the shore of the Black Sea, and sometimes along the river.

One of the ways I created a feeling of home was to bring some important items with me in the four large suitcases I transported. There were family portraits, an Asian carpet, some special china plates and a favorite pair of Lomonosov porcelain tea cups. I even brought one of my cats’ favorite small blankets so they would have something familiar and special to touch, smell and enjoy.

The romance that drew me to Russia ended, so I moved on to Romania after six months, and found a nice home in Bucharest for three months, where I could feel comfortable. My comfort was enhanced by the homey furnishings of the Russian and the Romanian apartments. These were thankfully not bare and spartan motel rooms.

My return to the USA was prompted by a desire to be close to family. So Denver became my home once again, just as it is now.

I eventually had to conclude that I am a vagabond, and a vagabond is wise to make a home wherever she or he may land whether it be for a month, three months, six months or a year.

Some strategies work better than others to turn an apartment into a home.

Back in 1992 I moved to spend a winter on Nantucket Island after leaving my final superintendency in Pennsylvania. It took two car loads in my Saab on the ferry to bring my worldly possessions to the house I had rented.

Even now
To belongings
Accumulated treasures
Or necessities
Dearly purchased
I still fill two car loads
Each move
Casting off surplus

The yield remains constant
As if the peach pit of my life
The hard core
Central to existence

Could I
Some day
Park the car
Some place
And steal away
Without baggage?
Could I quarter
This peach
And swallow it
Sweetness and skin
Saving the pit
For some unplanted orchard
Of old age?

What lust
Deep within
As evening
What foreign shore
Or island refuge

Cast off your anchor
Set sail
The breeze freshens
Little did I know that I would then move across the USA to help pioneer the use of the Internet in schools, becoming the Director of Libraries and Technology for the Bellingham Schools.

Bellingham became my home for the next twenty years.

The romantic meaning of coming home

For some, feeling at home happens when securely embraced in a lover's arms. There are many love songs that explore this aspect of homecoming, some of which are listed at https://www.musicindustryhowto.com/songs-about-home/.

This is a belief explored in a poem I wrote long ago . . .

Next to you

Lying next to you
I melt
Softened by your heat
I am butter soaking into toast
I am man loving woman
I am sun sinking into ocean
A sky ablaze with rose-tinted light

Waking next to you
I linger
Savoring your touch
Your scent
Your gentle breathing
In and out
At home in my arms
Sleeping the deep sleep

Living next to you
My palette is more vivid
My palate more complex
Life is shining and exuberant
Time slowed
Rhythm quickened
Pulse intense

Writing next to you
My words flow like a swollen river
Poem after poem after poem
As love and passion press me like a lemon
And juice pours out
While I surrender

For many, home is a matter of house and family, as was so well expressed by Crosby, Stills and Nash in the their 1970 song, "Our house."

I'll light the fire
You place the flowers in the vase
That you bought today
Staring at the fire
For hours and hours while I listen to you
Play your love songs all night long for me
Only for me

Our house is a very, very, very fine house
With two cats in the yard
Life used to be so hard
Now everything is easy 'cause of you
As a cat lover, I am pleased they mentioned two cats in the yard.

These are two of my cats, Sundae and Pearl, enjoying a lovely spring day.

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