I’m thinking, now, about home. I just visited the small Ohio village where I spent my high school years, and despite all the friends who have gone and despite the fact that my mother and sister have long since moved away, I found myself surprised to find that the place was and is indeed still home.
How could I not have known? It seems like a person should know where to call home. The truth is, I had come to think of myself as a placeless person. In the past twelve years I’ve moved seven times. When people ask me where I’m from I often end up with a confused look on my face.
This trip to Ohio, however, has changed something in me. It occurs to me that while I haven’t lived in this place the longest, it has proven to live the longest in me.
Why is this place, among all the others, home? What sets it apart? Why does my whole self feel at ease when I come into this tiny village with its four churches on the corners?
I drive in. There’s the drug store my brother-in-law’s family operates. There’s the small college chapel up the hill. There’s the field where I ran countless sprints, striving after high school athletic glory.
When I come into the village, it is as if I let out a great sigh that’s been in me for too long. I think, now, I am starting to understand why. It is here I am known and here I know. I don’t have to tell my story. People know it already. They know whose people I come from and how we got there. They know that my old man is buried in the dirt of that little cemetery, and they know how that came to pass. They know the shenanigans my friends and I got ourselves into (well, most of them), and the fact that my name never made it into the local police blotter is still a great relief to my mother. They know my successes. I don’t have to explain myself to so many new faces, and if I do, it’s likely already been explained for me. There are people there who have loved me and supported me longer than I have had the sense to recognize it. They love me still. I love them.
I know the back roads. I know the trails to escape to, the places to catch a sunset, where the best cup of coffee is. I know where the kids will be sledding as the snow falls heavily.
Honestly, I thought I’d claim a sexier place as home. I always thought central Ohio was no place for a mountain man. That’s the thing about Pilgrimage, though. You go away for a while. You see the world for its vastness and beauty, you see it is bigger and more amazing than you could have ever imagined. You see the granite of those High Sierras or the chain lakes of Canada and you fall in love.
And then, after a while, you come home. You remember the place that has a claim on you and you a claim on it. You can see now how beautiful it is; you see it in a way you never did before. And you love it, perhaps for the first time, as you really ought.