It’s been a long day at the salt mines. And like most such days it was filled with the usual joys, disappointments and petty maneuverings that make work such a mediocre place to spend such a large portion of one’s life. But at least the day is over. Thankfully the day was punctuated by numerous thoughts, memories, daydreams, of those he loved, loves, and misses.
Thoughts of the kids and their incessant racket, visions of his wife giving him that smile she does just for him, a long-lost memory of his first kiss when he was 14….what was her name? And then there are images of friends and family past and present drifting in and out, staying long enough to make the day worth living.
These thoughts linger on the train and the bus home. He limps from the must-be-kicked, sticky front gate to the front door. As usual, it is the last key on the ring he tries that finally turns the lock, by which time the pain in his toe has diminished. And as the door opens, the sights and smells of a safe and familiar place pull him in.
The kids’ coats are hanging on hooks dripping on the floor. He trips over a pile of wellies left in the middle of the hall, landing on the bicycle that hasn’t been used since the birth of child 1. As he raises himself up off the floor, he cracks his head on the wonky shelf he was meant to fix after the birth of child 2. Children can be heard in the background fighting and causing damage to the house, its contents, and possibly each other.
He makes his way to the kitchen where he finds his wife mopping up a small pond that was the floor. It seems someone decided it would be fun to unplug the fridge last night while no one else was watching. No one is copping to it ‘so it looks like thrashings all round’ he says. His wife laughs at him, knowing he hasn’t dispensed a thrashing in his life, despite threatening to do so at least once each day since child 1 turned two.
One might look at this sequence of events and view it as misery. Most of us simply read it and smile – it is us. It is a person who has been visiting both of his homes – the home of the heart, and the home of the head.
The home of the head is the most obvious. It is a physical space with a roof, doors, walls, a garden, a sticky gate, etc. It meets various physical needs and fiscal demands. It is a thing we select and then augment. We look for something in a budget, in a specific location, and of a certain configuration to meet not only today’s physical requirements, but all those we anticipate we might have during our long tenure in the place. It must also meet our lofty aesthetic requirements which in most cases are abandoned by the time of child 3.
And don’t underestimate the power and value of the home of the head. It gives us life-saving shelter, security, and a place in which we build our personal museums. It is here that we collect old clothing, finger paintings, kitchen magnets, ancient school assignments, printed images, art projects, posters, furniture, etc. We cannot seem to let these things go even if they seldom if ever see the light of day. And when we breath our last, the survivors have the grim task of throwing away all these reminders of a life well lived as these artifacts have little or no value to those who carry on.
There is another home – the home of the heart. Unlike the home of the head, it is not a physical place. It has no roof or walls or doors. It contains no objects or people. As such, it is a home we carry within us wherever we go. If the home of the head is a place in which we live, the home of the heart lives within us.
What it does contain are the emotions we attach to all those things within the home of the head.. and a lot more. It can contain feelings and memories associated with things unrelated to those with whom we share our home of the head. Old friends, prior lovers, places and adventures from long in our past. But it is not just a place full of memories, it is also a place where dreams of the future reside. All our most favoured imaginings of the future we wish to live in the house of the heart. The end result is that wherever we are, no matter how dark it may be, we have a home we can visit that warms our being if not our feet.
In July of 2014 my home of the heart was torn open, shaken, and a lot of what was in it fell out. You see, like most married people, my home of the heart revolved around my wife and the life we had carved out and were carving out at the time. One could portray my bereavement process as one of restoring my home of the heart. My home of the head remained my rock, my foundation. It was my safe place and springboard to the future.
Then in June 2018 my home of the head was destroyed by a volcanic eruption – no kidding. Within it was my personal museum and that of Larissa. All gone. It was where we spent our last six months together and where Lari died in my arms. Everything that could be lost when a home of the head is destroyed was destroyed. But it was more than that. It was our future too. A lot of our savings went into that place. It was our biggest investment, it was our place of work and source of income. It may not have been my favourite job by any means, but it was my job. So, now my home of the head was utterly destroyed.
I was blessed to be able to house sit two different places over the summer of 2018. This was quite welcome as I was also busy self-immolating my social life – more on that another day. It gave me and the dogs a safe and secure place to stay while we figured out where to go and what to do next.
I am lucky enough to have a second home to go to. It is yet another remote country place in the hills of Tuscany. A beautiful land populated by a lot of very friendly people. I arrived with Cosmo at the start of November 2018, having decided to settle here if we can for a while. It was a difficult decision as I have no clear route to income figured out yet, but I am hoping I can figure out some sort of remote working scenario before too long. The house is filled with all sorts of boxes of things Lari and I shipped here from the UK when we moved to Hawaii. It has been an interesting journey going through those boxes, but let us leave that for another day. It was a kind of dormant home of the head in waiting. Within a day of walking through the door, the place felt like more of a home than I have felt in years.
But with all this thinking about home of the head and home of the heart, one cannot help but think about the loss of either or both. I would have to say that right now I have a lovely house of the head. And this one thing is almost my whole world. If I could sprinkle a little income on top I would be a very happy man. But I am missing the home of the heart completely. I’m getting to the point that I can hardly remember what it felt like to have one. I need some time and stability to rebuild this, but I am optimistic.
I want to close with a thought about those people who have neither a home of the hear=d or a home of the heart. We call them homeless. Just try to imagine what that is like. No place to feel safe and secure. No regular shelter from the elements. There is likely no family when there is no home of any kind. And without those two, there is no possibility of a home of the heart. None of the essential physical, mental or emotional needs are being met. How long can one live like that and not be affected? Even I, with all I have experienced, have not been homeless in this sense. The idea of utter homelessness and my not being in such a state, gives me cause for gratefulness. I have an amazing home of the head, and I have the foundation of a home of the heart that may come together in the not too distant future.
Next time you see a homeless person, think of what they have lost. Think about the precariousness of life. Think about how little it would take to make you that person. I do.