We describe home as a permanent place of residency, identifiable by an address and a couch and a water heater and a collection of cheesy souvenir shot glasses, all gathering dust on top of a foundation that’s been cemented into the ground — as if to prove that your home and all its possessions aren’t going anywhere. It’s stable. Stalwart. Rooted in earthly strength and support.
Yet ironically, during my entire adult life, I’ve felt most uprooted when living in the definition of a home. My thoughts and actions and habits, for no justifiable reason, become as confined and weathered as the roof over my head. Roommate tension — fueled by, say, conflicting degrees of bathroom hygiene, kitchen etiquette or party antics — eventually explodes with the ferocity of some random pressure cooker left over from the previous tenants. Sanity levels disintegrate like rusty sewage pipes, leaching emotional crap into the very foundation on which your home stands.
But remove the walls and plunk me in the desert, in a forest, in Mother Nature’s home, and I’m so much more willing to overlook the roommate tendencies that normally drive me crazy. I’ll happily tolerate the moose deuce that is smeared across the tread of my boots or scratch off the flakey remnants of yesterday’s picked-fresh huckleberry pancakes that are baked onto the Coleman stove.
Pick your battles (and your roommates) wisely, I guess.
On an emotional level, the definition of a home is where you seek security and comfort and rejuvenation after a particularly rough day. It’s where good memories are framed and traditions are cherished. Where you come to unplug (before plugging everything back into a wall). Home is where you strip down those walls and don’t have to apologize for crying or laughing too loud or saying the wrong thing and, instead, can just let yourself be.
But once you’ve stripped down those walls, your home can’t support a roof or electrical outlets. And without a roof over your head, you’re as good as homeless, electrically powerless to all but the Milky Way glowing above your head. So you might as well invest in a good sleeping pad and ultra-portable nesting cookware and map all the good BLM spots because once you have nothing to bind you to four walls, suddenly your new views, new adventures, new memories become soothing comforts that you can’t live without.
Admittedly, “real” homelessness is not reliably stable or always comfortable — particularly in winter months — and I’ve been in constant limbo trying to discern my desire for a textbook home from my tendencies of gypsy life. So when I accepted a very recent job offer up north, I believed my nomadic spirit would give ways to a more “normal,” balanced lifestyle. Maybe even a permanent home. But as my employer and I discussed the terms of my job, I heard myself negotiating a nomadic arrangement to the enthusiastic approval and handshake of my new boss.
Looks like homelessness triumphs once again.
Geographically speaking, I don’t know where I’ll live once these first three months are up in the north. But I do know that as soon as I hit the road and head to the next adventure, I’ll feel right at home.