Home, adverb: to the place where one lives; noun: the place where one lives permanently; adjective: of or relating to the place where one lives; verb: returning by instinct to its territory after leaving it.
I’ve returned to my town after nearly three years away. My town is a small place at the bottom of the world. The sky is big here. It is as far from the Netherlands as one can get.
Coming back has taken more stamina and courage than I have had to exercise in a long time. It has been infinitely harder than the original move away. This town has nurtured me but also been a place of heartache. Coming home, I have had to negotiate this anew and find my own space in the middle of loss and hope.
For these reasons, and others, it has taken me awhile to sink into life here. Small things are freshly unknown: my body is confused that it is spring again; my palate is taking a long time to adjust to spring food when I am expecting autumnal food; I walk on the wrong side of the road; I don’t know how much a bus fare is, or where streets are that I should know as well as the lines of my heart. Being displaced in your home town is disorienting and exhausting. But it is miraculous to see your home town with new eyes and an open heart. Small things feel like huge gifts.
In the midst of big changes, I am newly grateful for the little joys that this place offers me. Bright stars, clean air, big sky, space, time. You can see the water from almost every spot in this town. The food is fresh and I know the farms it comes from, and the farmers that have brought it to me. The weekend newspapers are in a language I understand. I feel my capabilities in the English language returning, after years of being dulled by living and working in other languages. I never realised I would be so grateful for the ability to have a conversation with every person I meet.
Two nights ago, I had friends over for supper for the first time in my new home. I wanted the food to be truly spring-like; fresh and new and full of promise. I pan-fried fat spring lamb in some mint and lemon and oil; sautéed zucchini and cauliflower in garlic, butter, and shaved over some parmesan; roasted potatoes; and lined the plates with baby butter lettuce. I made a huge lemon tart for dessert. We had real conversation, good sauvignon blanc, and my new snoring puppy at our feet. And I wouldn’t have been anywhere else in the world. I was home.