All these years I’ve carried around with me the idea that I’ll ultimately find a home and that I’ll stay there for as long as my days will allow. This despite the fact that since I turned 18 I’ve not lived anywhere for longer than two years at a time except for the three and a half years I spent in New York City. Half of my life, then, I’ve been on the road or, shall we say?, on the Way. What makes me believe that the future will depart radically from the past?
As Americans, we have this odd, unconsidered notion that one day we’ll “settle down.” This will occur once we’ve established ourselves in our profession and found a suitable partner with whom we shall spend the rest of our days. It’s only natural, we believe, that we’ll have a physical location called home that matches professional stability and familial love, tethering the former to the latter.
However true this neat package (home-profession-family) once was (and one really should doubt whether it was ever very true for many), it is no longer true today. Precarity rules over professional life, with the number of freelancers on the rise; over family life, with attachments made and ended; why not too over one’s physical location, the place that one calls home? I’m no longer convinced that our historical moment is one of settling even once our 20s or 30s are through. No, it seems many of us shall continue to be nomads.
But now, relinquishing the royal We, I must speak for myself since I’ve not had any ideas of professional stability or cozy notions about the bourgeois family. Instead, I’ve clearly believed that my partner Alexandra and I, both being seekers and wanderers of the heart, would one day hunker down, marking an end of our journey. That, of course, couldn’t be more illusory.
In truth, our home, as it has been for so long for me, will henceforth be a bivouac, a sojourn, a temporary enclosure, a place to look around and explore for a time. Wanderers seeking Truth are like that. Like us, they live in rural Appalachia for half a year and then among the redwood trees of Northern California for a bit; then among the Joshua Trees of Southern California for five seasons; then among the mountains of Ojai for however long. And where next? And when? We don’t deign to say when or where but open-minded we must remain. Sensible seekers, we mean to be flexible without being in a hurry.
Clearly, we have both had buried within us some idea of community, believing this to be semi-permanent without granting fully that community is scarce and, like the full moon, brilliant in our day and age. My friends will likely continue to be, as they have so far been, scattered across the globe, and community will go on being an idea that comes into existence over a campfire one night, bursting out of the felicitous flames, only to vanish as the coals are cooled by the fiercely insistent wind.
The American poet Wendell Berry may call us to scrunch down into a place and be good stewards of this patch of earth, and as much as I like that vision I realize it cannot be mine. The desert fathers and mothers of the third through eighth centuries CE went into the desert and there grappled with their vices and lived. Such, I believe, is closer to Alexandra’s and my fate. Ever to be wanderers, always to be near the wilderness, never to be finally at home, and, one hopes, to be okay with perpetually being on the Way…