Home is a fascinating word for me as a linguist. When I studied abroad and lived in a host family's house in Tours, France during the summer of 2008, I felt an intense longing for my family members, friends, and many other aspects of what I defined as "home." The particular scents, tastes, and familiar sights of Utah, and Salt Lake City in general, stayed with me throughout those 5 weeks.
Initially, I wasn't able to express my feelings satisfactorily to my host mother. The French word for "home-sickness" translates literally to "sickness-for-one's-country." And it wasn't America that I felt I was missing at all! It was my "home," a word that I couldn't find in my limited French vocabulary.
I tried to explain in stumbling sentences to my host mother, that we had in English one word for "a house . . . plus family, friends, and feelings of love and happiness," but received only confused blank stares and unhelpful shrugs.
Eventually, I came across their stash of Disney movies in French and, when watching Finding Nemo, finally learned how the French express that feeling of "being-in-one's-space." Near the end of the film, Dory says desperately to Nemo's Dad, "No, you can't just leave me! When I'm with you, I remember things! When I'm with you, I feel at home!" In French, she says "Je me sens chez moi," which roughly translates to "I feel like I am in my place."
When we move into new spaces, our lives inevitably change - sometimes for the better, and sometimes in more challenging ways. Perhaps the reason for your move is positive - you may be moving on to a long-awaited opportunity or new adventure. Or perhaps something in your life has changed so drastically you feel forced to move for reasons beyond your control. It's possible that the changes you are experiencing feel optimistic and exciting. On the other hand, the changes you are struggling to endure may feel painful or destructive.
In her 1991 masterpiece called "Refuge," Utah writer and activist Terry Tempest Williams states
that "Suffering shows us what we are attached to . . . Dying doesn't
cause suffering. Resistance to dying does." While you are discovering what this next chapter of "finding your own place" may mean, you may feel a part of you has died or been left behind in the home you have left. However, no matter the circumstances that lead us to our moves to new spaces, we always have the choice to strive to thrive and make that place our own!
I am pleased to be able to offer a House Warming Celebration to Humanists and others in Utah. We live in an incredibly beautiful state. I look forward to celebrating with you the powerful times of change and growth that stem from moves to new houses - and I look forward to creating meaningful celebrations in which these houses are warmed into homes.
To share another passage from Terry Tempest Williams' legacy, a poem called "Dream Work" by Mary Oliver that prefaces "Refuge" :
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.