Multicultural Muses

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Muses to Inspire Creativity

Coming Home

The Art and Soul of Home

By Molly J. Anderson-Childers | Updated May 5, 2018

Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz said there's no place like it. A famous poet once said that it is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in. I have a friend who contends that it is the one place you can walk around naked without fear of reprisal.

Where is this exotic place, full of dangers and wonders galore? It's home, of course — simply that. But what exactly is it, this place or concept of home? Is it the place your family lives? The town you grew up in? The place you were born, or the place you feel most comfortable? I contend that home is all of these things, and more. And after a recent harrowing experience, I've come to treasure it in a new way.

As a child, my family moved often. I figure that in my 32 years, I have packed up and moved house over fifty times. A Gypsy child, barefoot, with the wind in my face, I grinned at the thought of new places. My concept of home was a fluid one, ever-changing. One day, a tiny bedroom with Holly Hobbie wallpaper. The next, somewhere else entirely.

After I moved out of my parents' house — which had long since stopped feeling like home — I bounced from apartment to dorm room to duplex. I even lived in my car, on the road, for a few months during the summers of my late teens and early twenties. I did house-sitting jobs when I was desperate. And if I had nowhere else to go, I crashed on a couch at a party. Mobility and freedom were more important to me than a stable place to hang my hat. In spite of my mother's good intentions, I lacked the hausfrau gene.

When I met my husband, I was living la vida loca in a college-girl apartment, where no one cooked or cleaned up and the party never stopped. I thrived on cheap beer, cold pizza, ramen noodles, and expensive party favors, and it was grand. Then I fell in love with a chef from Las Vegas, Nevada. He gutted and remodeled my concept of home, leaving it forever changed. I learned quickly that home was not just a place to store my notebooks and shoes, but a place my heart belonged. Somewhere I could find peace. A grove of aspens on a hillside, just greening. A slice of blue sky. A huge bed we shared, sheets puddled around us. A black Buick Apollo with a full tank of gas, ready to blast off. All of these places were home to me with Charles by my side. I was madly in love; he was my heart's true home then, as he is today.

On Friday, he woke up with some disturbing symptoms — back and chest pain, shortness of breath, cold sweats — the warning signs of a heart attack. Our little cabin in the woods had never seemed so far away from the rest of the world. Knowing an ambulance could never navigate our sketchy dirt road, I drove him to the hospital myself, at roughly the speed of light. He had just enough breath to carp about my driving — an annoying, if hopeful, sign that he'd be okay.

Still, I was worried. Worried? No. Frantic. I tried to hide my fear, to be calm and strong for him, something steady he could lean on. The doctors did tests and procedures, took enough blood to satisfy the hungriest vampire's appetite. In our little sterile hospital room, he sat up in bed and ate his heart-healthy dinner and said he'd kill for a cheeseburger. We watched hours of bad TV, read endlessly, and tried to sleep between blood draws and tests and moans and groans from the hallway outside.

He tried to convince me to go home to sleep. I told him I was staying with him until they threw me out, and they'd have a fight coming if they tried it. In my brief jaunts up to the house to check on our dog and cat, I moved quickly, thoughtlessly, hurrying so I could get back to him. The place felt empty and haunted without his big loud voice to fill up the rooms. I packed my bags and left quickly, speeding back to the hospital to be at his side.

To make our hospital room seem more like home, I brought him my beat-up old Pooh Bear, an amethyst crystal ball, our toothbrushes, warm socks. These tender mercies helped to bring a little grace and light into that ominous and dim hell of waiting. I bought a cheeseburger so I could sneak a bite for him. He said, "I love you." I cried a lot when he wasn't looking, and sometimes when he was and I couldn't help it. Little by little, he recovered enough to come home, and home is just where he'll stay for the next two weeks. He has been ordered to be a couch potato, eliminating salt and stress from his diet.

You ask me, what is this mysterious place called home? And I can only tell you what I know. It's a lot like love at first sight. It is different for everyone. And, just like love at first sight, you know — you just know — when you finally find it. My home is wherever he is, and nowhere he is not. Charles, my heart dwells with thee. Where you go, I must follow; where you stay, I will also bide.

The Art and Soul of Home: Projects and Prompts

Create a multimedia collage using the idea of home as a central theme. Photos, maps, postmarks and cancelled stamps from letters, cut up pieces of old paintings, words and numbers, stickers and glitter and buttons can all be used to create a fabulous collage! Look around for more ideas — found art like coins, fortunes from cookies, paint sample strips, movie tickets, or souvenirs from a trip can all be added to give this collage a more personal dimension. For an added challenge, try creating a 3-D collage using a box, tin, or bottle.

Write a haiku about the meaning of home; images and emotions tied to this concept can be very powerful and revealing. Sketch the home of your dreams, and glue a picture of yourself in the front yard. Use free-writing to explore the concept further; consider how the meaning of home has changed for you since you were small, and write about the homes you have known as an adult. As a writing prompt, begin a journal entry with, "My heart's true home is…" and just go wild! Explore and stretch out the notion of home until it fits you just right.

A sample journal entry might begin like this:

My heart's true home is on Venus. I want to fly away free. I will live in a sparrow's nest and call the raven my brother, the sky my sister, the wind my home. The jackdaw knows my real name and all the crickets are singing. My true home is the moment before a thunderstorm breaks over the plains, air electric and green with an eldritch light. Dusk draws out long and long in the north in the summertime. Listen — mama is calling me in before it gets too dark, her voice the first voice I ever heard. She was my first home, but I drifted away. Absinthe sends me sailing on an indigo midnight voyage in a fragile origami boat. I am rocked to sleep by moonlight and the sweet tender whispers of young girls.

Next Muse: Be Your Own Muse

©2008 Molly J. Anderson-Childers. All rights reserved.