Today brought up thoughts of the meaning of home, and the nature of sacred space.
I woke up this morning as a stranger in a place that was once home. Last night my husband and I walked streets we had walked hundreds of times before, but they were unfamiliar.
We visited old haunts, we ordered the same dishes from familiar menus. We marveled at how different our now was than our memories. And we marveled at the whole rooms of memories that opened themselves to be looked at, keys turned by the scent of jasmine, the mural on the side of a building, an old pink stucco house, the flavor of shizo.
We’re in the place where we met and married. A place on the edge of the continent, a place we both came to when we were young, in a ragged act of escape.
What is it we’re looking for when we visit our former homes? It’s something we humans like to do – we return like pilgrims, stand in front of houses we used to occupy, notice how much the rose bushes have grown, take pictures. But why?
I think we’re trying to catch a glimpse of our former selves. We’d like to run in to her in the street, or at least catch a glimpse of her turning a corner. We want to remember what she looked like, what she felt. But what we really want is to measure ourselves against her. Am I better now? Have I done what she wanted to do? Would she know me? Would she be proud of me?
Or maybe it is she, our former self, who is yearning to catch a glimpse of us, to be loved by us, to learn something from us. We are her fortune teller, her oracle. Maybe she sees us. Why is that lady standing in front of the house? She looks familiar…
Somehow in these moments of pilgrimage to old places, those two selves, past and present, get to merge, outside of time. I learn about the ways I have grown and transformed by measuring myself against the places I once inhabited, by refreshing my memory of the person I once was.
Today I got to inhale the scent of lemon blossoms, I got to climb a mountain and visit a temple. I got to sit by a fountain and hear the music of falling water, light a candle for the Mother, and leave an offering of flowers at the feet of a god.
Most importantly, I got to touch the girl I once was with compassion. I got to see the places where she was broken, and see that they are places where I am whole. I got to remember her beauty and be strengthened by it. The candle, the flowers, the scent of lemon blossoms – I see that they were all offerings to Wholeness; my own wholeness, yes, but also the capacity we all have to take the tattered threads of our life story, the many selves and many places, and weave them together into a single shining fabric.