One Sunday afternoon when I was a child, we were visiting some family friends who had a son in the Boy Scouts. His dad was a Scout leader and was demonstrating how to use a compass. He told me: “All you have to do is find true north and you’ll always find your way home.”
I spent the first 42 years of my life looking for my “true north.” I was born and raised in the Big Apple, the most exciting place on earth … New York City! Frank Sinatra wasn’t wrong when he said that this city was open 24 hours a day. Who wouldn’t want to grow up surrounded by all that excitement and entertainment, by museums, art galleries, The Met, Broadway and more. Well, believe it or not, I didn’t. Just like folks who swear they were born into the wrong families, I was certain that I had been born in the wrong place. Sure, I loved the arts and all that other stuff, but I would have given it up in a heartbeat for living in a small town where everyone knew your name, and your family, and you cheered the high school football team on a Friday night, and everyone came out for Homecoming Weekend, and when you said “home,” everyone knew what you meant. Somehow the writer in me was released when we visited relatives in the country in the summer time and I could roam the fields with my cousins. Then in high school, and again in college, I read “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau, and the dye was cast (actually, I think that book is responsible for more soul-searching journeys than any book ever written). So I made myself a promise that I would keep searching for my true north if it took me forever.
When I did find it, as is usually the case, it was seemingly by accident. I was traveling up from Pennsylvania where I was living at the time to visit my sister who lived on a farm in Upstate New York. Also on my agenda for that weekend was finding a store I had seen advertised in a teddy bear collectors magazine that had one-of-a-kind handmade bears for sale. When I asked my sister if she had ever heard of the town where the store was located, she replied with what everyone in her neck of the woods always said when asked for directions: “Oh, that’s just 10 minutes down the road.” So one hot, August afternoon in 1991 I got in my car and headed north in search of teddy bears and, unknown to me, my forever home.
Oddly enough, my sister was absolutely right. The store was really just 10 minutes down the road. In addition to teddy bears, the store also sold crafts and decor made by local folks. It was Americana at its best. I zeroed in on a bear with dark, curly fur and a lacy crocheted collar around its neck. With a bright red ribbon to finish her adornments, she was aptly named “Holly,” for she was a Christmas bear. It was love at first sight. Our eyes met and we both knew that there was no going back … she was mine.
As we left the store we realized that the temperature had gone up while we were inside. “I know a great place for ice cream,” my sister said. It’s just … you guessed it …10 minutes down the road.” So my sister, Holly and I piled back in the car and road some of the most beautiful back roads I had ever seen on our way to the next town over. The road led us into a sleepy little town on the banks of a sleepy little river, along a road where the trees formed a cool canopy over the houses, and people sat on their front porches with ice tea and passed the time of day. One house with a spectacular view of the river caught my attention. For some reason, and quite without even thinking about it, I said to my sister, “some day I’m going to live in that house.” Seven months later I did. Actually, it was a two-family home and I moved into the upstairs apartment where the spectacular view of the river was joined by an even lovelier view of the hills beyond.
Why am I telling you all this? Because creating an authentic life can’t happen if the idea of home doesn’t match up with the reality of where you are now. Home is your safe haven, your port in the storm. It’s your soft place to land. It is where you can be who you are. It is where you can laugh, cry, rant, rave, jump for joy, or hold your very own pep-rally-for-one. Home is how you feel inside about who you are and about what really matters. It’s the place where, when you’re there, you soul is at peace.
I don’t live in that idyllic little town any more. Circumstances has forced me to move to a slightly larger town not far away but closer to people and the services that I require. I have, however, found a perfect little apartment with another spectacular view, and when I walk in the door, my soul is at peace. Home isn’t what’s outside, it’s what’s inside.
This week over on the Home Page our writing assignment is going to be about where you are on the inside as well as on the outside, and what makes your soul smile. As always, have fun with it and remember to just keep writing.
Peace and blessings.