Today is Sunday. I am visiting family, near Chicago, in a town that used to be out in the country, but has grown, as Chicago has grown. The line between city and country now lies a few miles further up the road. A cold rain has been falling all day from a grey, weeping sky. With the temperature hovering near 32° F, the rain may shift to sleet or snow. But I am nestled, cozy and warm, in my father's house, a lovely, comfortable dwelling that feels like home - though I have never lived in it or in this town. But I have visited the area often enough to know how to get around, and have, over the years, been introduced to enough people here to have my own relationships with family friends. That is as close to "home" as anyone in my blood family is ever going to get,. Because we moved – a lot – perhaps twenty times before I left to live on my own, and I have racked up another thirty-odd relocations since then. We are, as a friend of mine has said, a portable people.
Peripatetic, restless, seeking, my family embodied a potent aspect of the American Dream. We lit out for the territories, in buoyant hope that things would be better down the road a piece. This buoyancy came primarily from my father. He is the most profoundly optimistic man I have ever known, and he has a very rare gift: an off-switch for worry. It’s not denial; rather, he knows how to assess what he can change and what he cannot change (which many of us can do) and then – here's his superpower – release the things he can't change.
My dad is neither a Zen master nor a Rinpoche nor a contemplative Carmelite. I don't know what it is in his deepest heart that allows him this freedom and the resulting comfort with wherever he happens to be. I certainly wish I had inherited or learned it in greater measure. For me, it comes only sometimes, in bursts. I suddenly realize that I am in the kingdom of heaven, where everything, everything, is in the hands of the One who creates, sustains, and renews. I'm not transported there, because it's always here, among us. Jesus told us, and countless holy men and women, of countless traditions have told us, in countless ways. But we don’t see it, and we need to be reminded to look. And that's what artists do: point the way and shine as much light as we have in us.
Earth's crammed with heaven, wrote Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and every common bush afire with God; but only he who sees takes off his shoes – the rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.
This place, this earth where the blackberries grow dark and sweet, is the doorway to deep home, the place of all our seeking. What we are looking for is already here. The gift is to know it when we see it, because the knowing is home.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.