Volume 32 Issue 1
In practice, I believe that being-at-home is always a work in progress. The Spanish word querencia describes that inward “place” where we are most at home—a place that is always present, though sometimes elusive. We feel it, we leave it, and then we want to find our way back. In his essay “Waterworks,” philosopher and writer Reyes Garcia, whose family has lived on the same southern Colorado ranch for generations, writes about the delights and challenges of living into one’s home place: “It is not simple to be so located, enfleshed in a concrete locus, nor is it easy to live up to its beauty.” Being at home, in this sense, is like any long-term relationship; it takes commitment, devotion, and work to keep the connection fresh and alive.
Home is more complex than one’s geography alone. It encompasses social and cultural dimensions, as in one’s relationship to a religious community, which Ana Maria Spagna explores in her essay “13% Catholic.” Heather Kirn considers what it means to be a dissenting American and how that affects her identity with respect to her homeland. In “By Turns,” Kate Krautkramer writes about the emotional complexities of settling into a new home or leaving an old one behind.
For those prone to transcience—which our culture seems to encourage in many ways—a meaningful connection to a place and a community may be hard to find. Seeking a deeper sense of belonging to a new home back in the winter of 1981, I drove the high roads to Silverton, Colorado, where I visited a woman whose writings suggest the possiblity of a more grounded way of dwellng in one’s place. Dolores LaChappelle’s earthy wisdom gave me—as she gave many others over the years—a template for thinking about what it means to be at home. She believed not only in the necessity of knowing one’s ground, one’s watershed, and all the other life forms that live there, but also knowing about earlier human dwellers and their stories. She also believed in the power of ritual in sustaining a relationship with one’s home ground. One memory from my visit with Dolores has stayed with me over the years. I picture her moving with the grace of a great blue heron, doing early morning tai chi near the big window that looked out on her home mountain. And I am reminded that being at home is a daily practice.
photo credit: the woman with accordion: Oscar Lozoya lozoya.com