Six months ago, I brought my dog and moved in with my man.
A single-story house with a comfortable backyard. He has his office; I have mine. A dusty rose macrame hangs in the guest bedroom. Morning tosses blocks of light across the living room carpet, where books pile midway up the wall, waiting for the bookcase we’ll build.
This, after living on my own for ten years of apartments in Victorian homes with musical hardwood floors and glass doorknobs; after being married and sharing a flat with a fireplace in Arkansas and living through four winters without one in Indiana;
after sharing home with my mother in Otter Creek, a gated community blending borderless between city and suburb; after hiding all summer the injury that changed how I see (six-month eye patch / fetal on the floor / trying to believe Jesus for a miracle / mom bathing my seventeen-year old body / eye removal scribbled in a dated box on a cheap, complimentary calendar);
after growing up in our family home with vaulted ceilings, where dust particles danced near tall windows and four sisters fought over one bathroom, and every Christmas all six of us would fold white paper bags, fill them with sand, and light the candles inside—our neighborhood lifted to magic…my faith, my eye, my family still intact. Luminaria for one night.
Home is all these places (sensation as much as a structure, inner settling as much as where I drop my bags) and none of them.
Home is mother cooking sauerkraut, smell of vinegar cabbage seeping into wood panel walls, and father practicing turkey calls, cleaning his Remington.Home is shale cliffs flanking pig-trail highways in the Ozarks, snow-soaked porch steps of a grey-blue Victorian in Lafayette, Chardonnay sunshine glittering my backyard beach in California.
I admit home is easier for me now. My breath catching up with itself. A man I love brings me coffee in bed every morning. My sidelong smile glimpsed in a hallway mirror. When I travel to France, home is café Au Lait; in Costa Rica, Sun Salutations and a journal.
But home has also been a place of dread—pausing at the front door of Quail Run Drive, readying myself for the cloud-blade of tension strung taut between each room my parents inhabited. Divorce a curtain soon dropping to the stage floor. The dance I did to avoid its velvet weight, and still….
Home has been a reminder of lack, empty echoes, suspended between my own divorce and desire for a new warmth to fill rooms with his—don’t yet know whose—stories and touch and steamed rice.
I have made a home with books and dogs, vintage furniture and farmers market flowers, foreign films and used records, burned down candles and wine--yoga in the dining room and writing at a desk kissing a window.
And I have lost homes.
The apartment in Arkansas where Clair kept watch for my return, her black nose visible between silver-lavender curtains as I parked the car; house at the corner of Pacific and Nipomo where I learned to love my wound after a fifth surgery; my eye bandaged in gauze, every mirror in every room covered with my friend’s penned affirmations—Everything has beauty. The granny unit with central heat and air, a yard and laundry I shared with friends, their twins, a German Shephard named Zeke.
All places I found footing, dance, song and silence of lovers I opened to. The ones that left by train. The ones I left by claiming the sky, swallowing Orion’s Belt.
So, when he wrote We belong together on my coffee mug, I let home change again. Cleared out my storage, sold furniture, finally opened the ten-year purple bin of photo albums—my faith, eye injury, first marriage sealed in clear, plastic sheets—, letting go what needed to go, wedding dress I wore to the beach and surrendered to the ocean....
From my same desk now kissing a new window, I imagine bright fish and algae making home in pearls and heavy, sanded silk.
Home isn’t this house of low ceilings and small closets. It’s his smile as I crawl across the bed; how I wrap my arms around his chest, bury my face in his broad back as he drops potatoes in fish stew. It’s taking five months to choose a round mirror, brass with patina. It’s putting up a Christmas tree, vintage bulbs hung in all my homes, and his surprise of white lights trimming the house.
Home may not include children (grief settles into a ceramic bowl, soft and round / womb, a home I touch with prayer and ash), but it is family.
The way my heart knocks when we dance in the living room. Warm water we soak in as we watch stars hold up the sky, then fall like wishes onto our arms and chests. Thin membrane of morning sealing me into meditation, pen scrawling notebook pages, dog collars ringing from window to window.
Home is hearing my own voice…
Where I live is quiet, full of light, spacious, changes with me, soft and strong, timeless, chaotic, longing, hopeful, sensual and sexy, tender and held, rooted.
I have windows. I am a lighthouse.
This is where I live. Home is who I am.
For more of Leslie's work head to ProseandPoses.com Or find her at @proseandproses