Returning Home: Travel and the Gifts of the Return

It is good to be home.

This is the thought of the man as he sweeps the carpet of cypress needles that have fallen on the deck and front walkway, the cornstalk broom in his hands rasping in a familiar voice as it brushes the ground rhythmically, leaving an ever widening clean wake where it passes.

The man has been away on travels, far across a cold grey sea, alighting in northern lands where the freezing depths of winter still hold sway and darkness, like an earnest lover, arrives early and withdraws late. Traveling in the Old World always delights him, and immersed there in its mélange of languages and cultures, he feels at ease and at home. More than once Europe has been his residence, and when he returns he always feels a curious sense of coming home, even as a foreigner.

He appreciates the way that traveling abroad opens his senses, the novelty of a new locale causing the sensory gating channels to dilate wider than their habituated, narrowed state, and he enjoys feeling the different energetic vibration and pulse of a new place. He values the great old cities of the world for their arts and culture, their historic architecture alongside the modern, the varied cuisine and intriguing diversity of people.

Yet in his heart he remains a quiet soul who moves at a slower, unhurried pace—more suited to countryside than city—one who savors rambling nature walks, a tranquil garden, and twinkling stars at night. His is a mostly old-fashioned life unplugged from television, radio, and the bulk of modern media, connected intimately to earth instead.

The man stands barefoot outdoors, appreciating the tactile reconnection of sole, soul and soil after too many hours of hurtling through the atmosphere in the belly of a great metal bird. The frenzied jostle and chaos of airports, the buzzing electromagnetic energy and noise, the queues of people funneling through transportation security and boarding the plane, all of it he finds tiresome. It is the most draining and tedious part of traveling. Now, feeling the cool of bricks and stone underfoot, or the roughness of bark fragments and sloughed off bits of cypress on the spongy earth, he feels at ease—his nervous system unwinding gently, slowing down, a gentle softening of belly and breath—a sense of coming home to himself.

He sweeps the bricks by the gate, shepherding the cypress trees’ detritus towards a patch of earth, listening to a scrub jay noisily gossiping in the neighbor’s tree and a crow laughing gutturally in response down the street. Beneath a sky of pale Wedgwood blue, the early February day shines unseasonably warm and the man halts his tidying with broom to roll up the long sleeves of his shirt. After a fortnight of being bundled up in a heavy coat and scarf to ward off the freezing weather any time he stepped out of the hotel, the balmy sunshine is a welcome gift. The stark, grey and denuded world of northern European winter has vanished into memory, and the living scenario now enfolding him hums green, fully alive and blooming.

cherryblossomsIndeed, on the central California coast, the signs of early spring are everywhere. Since his departure, the two small, spindly cherry trees next to the tall wooden fence have burst into bright bloom, profusely decorated with inch-wide ruffled pink pompoms of soft spun silk. Tender and fleeting, already they are sprinkling the ground with their delicate petals like large, rosy snowflakes. The camellia bushes with their dark, shiny leaves are heavily pregnant with scores of straining but tightly closed globes, each one a concentration of energy and color, nearly ready to dramatically unfurl into flowered beauty. An American robin pecks intently at the earth, digging for breakfast, while overhead in the boughs of the great Monterey cypress, two red squirrels chase each other madly and noisily through the twisted maze of branches in an early spring mating chase.

The front of the cottage swept and tidied, the man scatters a handful of organic millet along the deck railing and the ground for his little winged friends, smiling at their noisy excitement as a dozen house sparrows eagerly alight from the trees and fence to feast on the golden seeds.

“Sorry for my absence,” he says aloud with genuine sentiment, a fusion of compassion and deep affection in his heart. May all be fed.

Given the day’s warmth, he sits outdoors at the mosaic-tiled bistro table, cradling an Asian porcelain cup filled with aromatic jasmine green tea, appreciating the subtle aroma of the brew and its delicate taste. He observes the commotion of feeding birds with delight, occasionally turning to gaze upward at the trees and filtered sunlight, half-listening to the muffled sounds of the neighborhood that surrounds him. Resting. Sensing. Feeling.

His bodymind still pulses with experiences of the recent travels, a stream of fresh memories replayed, but mostly he is appreciating the measured downbeats of a familiar, unhurried life that nourishes him. He is home again, though for this wandering man home is less an actual locale than it is a way of being—a certain ease of body and spirit, a connection with earth and self, which are never really separate. Home is a repeated turning towards that which nourishes the bodysoul while turning away from whatever does not. It is a sense of balance and comfort, a return to center when life pulls him too far in one direction.

For a Soul Artist like this man, ‘home’ is a feeling of openness, expansion, and deep sustenance on all levels of being. It consists not only of the sanctuary of a physical abode but also the little rituals and daily celebrations of being human, those moments and actions that bring him back to himself in a conscious, meaningful way—even when such actions are deceptively simple, like lighting a stick of resinous incense in his house, perfuming the space as if it were a sacred temple. Savoring a cup of tea. Sweeping the porch. Feeding the birds. Greeting the dawn.

morning_skyLater as the daylight fades to an evening that whispers of periwinkle, he lights the dozen candles around the cottage, turns on some mellow music, pours himself a glass of wine, and sets about creating a modest supper. After two weeks of restaurant fare, how deliciously welcome to cook something fresh. Separating the sturdy, crisp leaves of chard from their rainbow colored stalks, he offers a little prayer of gratitude for the gift of life in his hands. His bodysoul craves something fresh, healthy and flavorful, full of prana/chi, prepared with his own hands and savored in a non-commercial environment.

He eats alone at the table by the window, observing the fading violet sky through a tangled frame of silhouetted cypress boughs, the flickering beeswax taper beside him casting a circle of golden illumination. He feels a note of blue in his wild heart, missing his beloved after the delight of traveling together, and now once again sailing a solitary passage for a while. Unfathomable, the mysterious currents of life.

The bold flavors on his plate—astringent greens, pungent chile and garlic, a hint of lemon and salt, the earthy and buttered goodness of grains—taste all the more welcome and delicious for their organic, fresh simplicity. With a nibble of dark chocolate and a cup of fine tea to follow, all seems right in the world again. Or nearly.

How good it is to enjoy a change of pace and scenery, the excitement of international travel to a realm beyond the everyday familiar. Yet also how pleasing to return to a simple, quiet life that nourishes and sustains. In a busy, hurried, noisy world of ‘doing’ and forgetting, everyone glued to their handheld mobile devices, how essential to unplug and revert to a slower, tactile and more connected, non-technological approach to life.

To what do we offer the gift of our attention? What truly nourishes on a deep level? What might we discover when we live at ‘soul speed’ rather than full throttle?

Night descends. A pearl of moon and flickering stars emerge, just as they have each night since the saga of Troy and back even further into the mists of timelessness. Outdoors in the dark beneath the great tree, listening to the sea, scents of cypress and night blooming jasmine on the salty air, the man offers a silent prayer of gratitude. Such beauty and uncountable blessings. What grace this body, this vessel for the soul. What a supreme privilege to be alive, ensconced in bones and breath, endeavoring to offer something of meaningful value while walking on this blue green jewel of a planet as it spins through the cosmos.

It is good to be home.