In response to my blog post, Home and a sense of belonging (reblogged here), I received a number of comments. That post seemed to strike a chord with a few of you, and with Patricia Healey in particular. Her comment was so thoughtful, and though-provoking, that I asked her permission to share it again here so those who did not see it the first time will be able to read her words now. Thank you, Patricia!
“Where do you belong to?” In Newfoundland this was a question often asked of strangers to understand where they were born, where they come from. Consciously or unconsciously, it may have been speaking to something deeper – where your people were from and the influences that shaped your life. Where you were living now did not seem as relevant as “where you belonged to.” Do you always belong to the place where you were born? To many Newfoundlanders the answer to this would have been yes, they died where they lived. Many of them, outport people who made their living from the sea, never even travelled outside of their community, let alone outside the country. They were tied to the sea, they belonged to it as surely as the fish that they caught. They had a deep sense of connection to the sea, and a respect and reliance on it that was generations in the making. They belonged to the life they had created or inherited.
I have spent much of my life betwixt and between places, with no permanent home that I belonged to, once I left Newfoundland as a young woman. I have travelled the world, gypsy like, with a nomadic resistance to settling in one place for ever. How could I choose one place when there was a whole world of places and possibilities to explore? I travelled for work and I travelled for pleasure, sometimes to completely new and unexplored (for me) places and sometimes revisiting old, familiar places. Each time was like setting out on a new adventure, making my home temporarily in the place I now found myself, getting grounded there, making friends and connections. I felt like the world was my home, I belonged to it. But strangely, the place that came to feel homelike, commonplace, in all of this travel was the Air Canada airport lounge, the place I would relax and settle into if only for an hour between my comings and goings.
I feel I now belong to three places – Vancouver, Newfoundland and Bequia. My dear friend Tracy says she will not allow me any more than 3. I understand where she is coming from. It is good to have some rootedness in a place – a place where there is focused work, where you can build a sense of community and connection with people and the things that inspire you. And not to be scattered all over the place.
Vancouver is the place I have lived and worked in for over 20 years, it is the place where I have married and divorced, the place of great and continuing friendships. It is the place that nurtures my desire to grow and become more enlightened. I love it there.
Newfoundland is the place of my birth, the place I can say I belong to. It is the place where my sensibilities as a Newfoundlander developed; it is the place where most of my family, including my 91 year old mother, still live; it is a place where the landscape is raw and elemental in its beauty, and it keeps drawing me back. I love it there.
Bequia is the Caribbean dream that most people have, a small island with a big sense of community, a place where I teach Yoga, write and live for most of the year, especially during the cold winter months. It is a place, that when you leave it, keeps filling your mind so that you feel you have to go back. I have some great friends there. And guess what. I love it there, too!
So where do I belong? I think all this moving around, this seemingly untethered life has forced me to look at this question and come to an understanding, perhaps, a comfort, that I belong to the life I have created, sometimes the one I have fallen into unexpectedly, or the one I have consciously chosen, the life I am living right now. Every experience, joyful or otherwise is the tapestry of my belonging, each moment is another part of the structure of my house of belonging as David Whyte calls it in his poem. I have learned a lot about this sense of belonging from my own practice and teaching of yoga. Through it I have become more comfortable, at ease with the house of my own body/mind, that I live in this body/mind and take it with me wherever I go. Sure, having a physical house that you can call home is important. But you can have a house and still not feel at home if you do not really inhabit the body as the real house that you live in. To be truly comfortable in one’s own skin. To also acknowledge the unique gifts and contributions that you have made to someone or something around you, no matter how small it may have seemed at the time. It is the life force in us all that allows us to do that. And to be aware of, acknowledge and love this life that is you, as likely the place that you belong to most of all. In the end any house you dwell in will be gone, but always there will be an impression, even if it is just a vapour, of the life you have lived. Live well in the house of your belonging.