" … a home still unsupplemented by an additional professional abode."

Many people maintain two homes, the one where they vacuum the floors and the one where they report to work. I know, work ain't home, but it carries a home-like familiarity. At work, one has "their" desk, a workspace reserved for personal professional use. If you're not reporting to a desk job five days every week, the absence of that auxiliary work home might prominently loom over the other home. One needs a significant other home, I think, in order to properly frame the real home, someplace meaningfully calling one out into the world. This seems to add purpose to existence. Nobody ever rebuts an insistence that one simply must "get to work" or "they'll be late." Out they go, no questions asked.

Where do the rest of us go to find that sort of work home?

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"Call it vanity, I don't care. It feels like sanity to me."

By mid-April, my backyard snowbank's finally less than two feet deep and the surrounding yard saturated as it will not again be soaked until this time next year. The underlying hardpan becomes friable for a few terribly short weeks, and I kneel in humble appreciation. The house has by this time of the year shrunken to the size of a toolshed, more jail cell than home. I flee the wintertime boundaries which kept me incarcerated since October, aching for fresh grass stains on my knees and a newly aching shoulder joint. I deadhead the buff beige leftovers from last year's yarrow blossoms and rake up the worst of the pine needles culled down by the insistent winter westerlies. Blade breaks earth and the garden seems to sigh in relief and forgiveness. The snow preserved everything beneath its benevolent blanket, protecting it from fifty harsh nights and hundred heartless days. The soil seems to breathe a sigh of relief. It's finally Spring.

DiggingIn's an annual ritual. No tilling ever extends its influence over a winter.

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" … One of the thousands of HomesAwayFromHome we've stumbled into and back out of …"

In Europe, I've heard it said that vacationers seek places really different from home. In The United States, we hope to recreate home when we travel. Tourist traps tout Home Cookin', Homemade Salt Water Taffy (though nobody ever makes taffy at home), and Home Style Hotel Rooms. Often these places deliver better or worse than home style, actual home style having evolved into something more familiar than tout-able. Still, I settle into a definite familiarity when traveling, a sort of dance choreographed by dozens of repetitions, each somewhat unique and each also absolutely the same. The easy monotony of a Marriott hotel room, the furniture absolutely unfunctional yet entirely familiar, I long ago figured out how to jury-rig the couch so I could sit up straight there. The mildly disappointing menu choices at the diner promising home-style cooking reminds me most of how my grandmother was supposed to have cooked and never did.

I take little of any of this very seriously.

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"I'll find home without the shameless spinning or accede to eternal homelessness, thank you."

An important part of FindingHome involves mustering as clear an image as possible of what home might look like, to strip away the more prominent myths and produce a crisper portrait of the place. The mind might conjure gothic columns behind a white picket fence which reality could never deliver. Owning a home remains the most prominent indicator of success, whether that home be a one story rambler on a slab, a palatial estate, or a rusting double wide adjacent to a commercial refueling tank farm. Simply owning real estate smacks of some sort of success, indicative, according to the home ownership myth, of hard work, thrift, and responsibility fully assumed.

This presumption begs the questions, then, of what success really looks like now, how does it seem to be achieved, and what key indicators lead to its emergence?

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"The aches will soon evaporate but the satisfaction will linger on."

Home ownership begets aches and pains, for dedicated homeowners just cannot help themselves. They tend to overdo. When Spring finally comes, the pruning begins. The narrowest of windows appear within which the homeowner accepts the necessity of completing a week's worth of work over an all-too short weekend, and so does. By Sunday night, a satisfying sort of crippling sets in. The homeowner will drag that last tarp load of trimmings to the by-then ungainly pile, lovingly fold the tarp and set it onto its shelf, then limp to the back steps, slip off the boots, then pop open the most satisfying beer ever enjoyed by anyone anywhere; the first of several. A close to nirvana state reigns over the yard as the sun sanguinely sets just beyond the gate. The homeowner might measure a couple of inches shorter than on Friday, but he feels ten feet tall.

The aches aren't only the result of over-doing, but also caused by simply doing things not every day required.

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" … no Home yet in the history of this world so far ever felt a damned thing."

Almost nobody will complain if I resort to proclaiming that something "feels like home," even though homes can't feel. Most will seamlessly parse the phrase without noticing that they've supplied one hundred percent of the meaning they experience, for phrases like 'feels like' act as trance inducers. If nobody raises an eyebrow in confusion, the induction worked. Congratulate me, I'm a hypnotist, except nobody noticed. If nobody noticed, is it still a trance? Perhaps it's the very best trance of all.

When I think of home, a thousand contradictory feelings bubble up, for home has hosted pretty much every sort of feeling I've experienced from my greatest sadnesses to my greatest joys, though the home itself seemed rather impassive, merely the medium within which those feelings emerged.

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"Nowhere, you explain."

Imagine a swimming teacher assigning homework. Nobody has a swimming pool at home, so what does a dedicated student do? Practice the Australian Crawl on their bedroom floor? Homework felt like this to me. My first question was, "Just where at home might I fulfill this assignment?" My bedroom, which I shared with my older brother, offered semi-privacy but no writing surface. I could lounge on my bed there and read, but math proved almost impossible to do while sprawled on my belly balancing a book more dedicated to closing itself than staying open to the page, while the worksheet kept sliding off the back of my precariously-balanced notebook. My pencil would break, necessitating a trip to the kitchen to sharpen it, a gauntlet of distractions along the way. Or, I could work at the dining room table, Grand Central Station situated between the living room and the kitchen, the least private spot, bookended with distractions. I might cower in the basement, working bent over on an old coffee table until my lower back gave out. Or at the Kitchen table while carrying on a half dozen side conversations. I might end up with ten minutes of focused attention before suppertime.

Context matters.

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" …who really knows what love is?"

We speak of homes as if the inhabitants comprised a homogeneous whole, when quite the opposite seems more likely. Sure, we might call ourselves a family, but nearly twenty percent of those families satisfy the definition of blended, step-siblings cohabiting or nearly steps, the adults not formally related yet, if ever. Even within directly related family units, significant differences exist. The extroverts drive the introverts crazy and vice versa. The smart kids dominate the dumber ones. The older kids lord over their younger siblings. Parents get gamed into paradoxical proclamations. Within each family unit, a tacit cultural map very similar to The Balkans persists, contradicting the apparent surface homogeneity of the group.

I was my family's 'sport,' a rose gardening term referring to the odd sprout which does not mirror a plant's other characteristics.

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"Where do I go when I disappear there?"

I'd prefer to stay home. Given the opportunity to travel the world, I'd still prefer to stay home. I'm a notorious HomeBody, into my routine, comfortable in my surroundings as long as I'm home. Good introvert that I am, I consider myself to be my own best company. Strangers exhaust me. Even too much family tends to quickly tucker me out. I live most of my life inside my head. The rest of the world and all its supposed charms seem about 98% distraction. I kick and scream at the mere prospect of leaving my lair. The Muse has to grab me by my hair and throw me out into the world. She insists that interesting things happen when I get out in the world, and I cannot disagree. Still, I'd rather stay home.

When I consent to go out, I drive with one foot in the ditch, wary and watching for calamity.

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"Were it not for Homesteadying, my family's history would seen narrow and thin."

My family history features centuries of homesteading. Many of my father's ancestors were near-royalty, later sons and daughters of prefects, kings, and various mucky mucks, high born but eventually laid low by the passage of time. Their more recent descendants scraped out their livings, some too poor or unskilled to even homestead. One became a circuit rider. I know that means respectably homeless, honorably homestead-less. My mom's side of the family was involved in every homesteading scheme since 1600. Puritans, Revolutionary War soldiers, indentured slaves, on-the-lam protesters against British rule, dislocated sons, predestinationists, pro-slavery and against, a Civil War veteran, a sixteen year old bride, all relocated to hinterland with the intention of settling it.

They each arrived in some prior century, finding rock and hardpan greeting them.

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"This world will end with neither fire nor ice, but more likely with a whimper …"

The classic image of some blond bombshell as HomeWrecker overlooks a more present threat, the humble homeowner. More homes seem to have been wrecked by the well-intended improvements undertaken by homeowners than families have been laid low by scheming femme fatales or conniving gigolos. Something about owning a home seems to convince a homeowner that he possesses skills he never once demonstrated and never will manifest. He's likely at some point during his possession to become possessed by the painting jinn or worse, the wallpaper demon. Neither he nor his spouse exhibit any true talent for interior design, but the DIY videos proliferating The Home Despot's site materially underplay the difficulties of even the most daunting improvement. A dreary browsing Sunday seems to be enough to spark that dark urge which seems to spring eternal from the breast of even the most otherwise rational homeowner.

A gallon of paint nestled in the corner of the sale bin might be enough to start a long and painful descent into the netherworld of home wrecking.

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DIY-Chicken-Plucker jpg
"We're HomeMade snobs now."

Home is where many of us take refuge from industrialized society to 'make it ourselves.' HomeMade, to my mind, means better if a little weird. HomeMade stuff lacks the uniformity we've all grown to expect and have been taught to use in lieu of judgement to determine quality. A lopsided cake might well taste better and even prove healthier than any store-bought alternative, but it still looks not quite right. The HomeMade chicken plucker pictured above probably works every bit as well as an expensive stainless steel job built in some factory, but it looks just a little bit (or, maybe a lot bit) cheap. The subtle and insistent indoctrination accompanying advertising might be the most insidious factor of living in a mass-production culture. Taken to ridiculous extremes, we might find ourselves trying to reproduce mass produced products at home, creating truly terrible HomeMade Snickers® bars or horrible handcrafted potato chips. Home can serve as a refuge from this absurdity, though HomeMade sometimes looks simply absurd.

The Muse and I keep our efforts focused upon more traditional items.

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vintage housewife
"Such is the life of any Homemaker, and we're all homemakers now."

I admit that I was poisoned in early childhood from living in a normal family where the dad went to work each morning and the mom stayed home to "homemake," an occupation that seemed destined to drive the incumbent crazy. It worked as well as it worked for as long as it worked. My mom, who had always sort of leaned in the direction of crazy anyway, eventually instigated a coup and took a job outside the home, a financial necessity and a real challenge for my father to accept. By then, the kids were fully capable of picking up some of the homemaking duties, and we somehow survived. Since then, I've lived exclusively in homes where the homemaking duties were shared, though never without some tension. We each thought of ourselves as somewhat equal contributors, though in practice, one person tended to have more than their fair share foisted upon them, often due to their own sensibilities. Often, individuals overestimated what they personally contributed, thereby under-contributing, fomenting some strife. Typically, the expectation falls on the wife, however otherwise occupied she might become.

I try to do my fair share of homemaking, with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

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Heraclitus would have smugly said, "I told you so."

Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus was a busy man. He rarely simply sat around philosophizing, but was actively employed failing to remain similar enough long enough to step into the same river twice. He was constantly changing. He later reported that even the same old thing, perceived from some perspective as seemingly insignificant as a slightly different angle, would appear different. He might have been the first proponent of the notion that life flows rather than simply sitting there being. He noted that the world and all its inhabitants and the universe surrounding it and us exist not as beings, but as becomings. He is remembered as the weeping philosopher, one prone to overwhelming bouts of melancholia, as perhaps befits anyone endlessly pursuing without ever actually achieving. His travels never really started and could not be completed, but continued asymptoticly, an exhausting proposition. His spirit probably continues his necessarily endless pursuits.

I'm attracted to Heraclitus' perspective, though his lack of payoff might feel disappointing for anyone aiming to accomplish something conclusive from their efforts.

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"Live freer of delusion or ultimately destroy yourself …"

Until November 2002, I'd never thought that the United States comprised a homeland. I understood that right wing forces had pulled the concept of Fatherland out of someone's butt following Germany's WWI defeat and that Russians had always spoken fondly of their Motherland, but I'd thought that the US would never come to a point of unallied desperation that would drive us to flee into the arms of an imaginary parent. I opposed the idea of mustering a Homeland Security operation, recognizing the historical dangers accompanying a national -land designation. Americans were by design less homogenous and more independent, favoring homesteads over homelands. Each subgroup thought of someplace else as their -land, and this place as a melting pot of ex-landers. After all, our founders had engineered a messy separation from our Mother Country, and not, I thought and still believe, to become what we'd once reviled.

It came to pass anyway.

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"Though I understand I hold nothing more than a believable fiction, it sustains me."

Home seems more of an attraction than a place, a magnetic pull more verb than noun. As such, I suspect that it never resolves into a particle, but must eternally exist as a wave form, tugging and pulling without ever ultimately manifesting into any thing. Move into a new home and you'll find reason to amend it. Maybe the yard needs some work or that back bathroom wants replacing. The eye might well never find satisfaction, not even a negotiated settlement. The list of next projects will only grow longer with incumbency.

It might be proper to speak of homing rather than of home.

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"One might feel tempted to refer to it as The Billionaire's Greed …"

I'm no billionaire myself, so I speak here as an observer of billionaire behavior rather than as an actual player. I often wonder what sort of moral or ethical compass guides billionaire behavior. I'm certain their's differs from mine and also from what any of the rest of us might recognize as normal or regular, but I'm not saying that they lack morals or ethics, just that their's differ from yours and mine. I feel the same revulsion you probably feel when watching some of their antics, for they always seem to be up to some surreptitious something, and while most of them seem to sneak around as if embarrassing themselves, they're often found out and exposed, so we generally know or strongly suspect what they're up to. Of course they deny even the obvious. I figure that response might be part of a creed, The Billionaire's Creed.

A creed informs an incumbent of both their intentions and their responsibilities, such as they are.

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"Home still seems sweet even though we know we're more indentured to it than own it."

Almost nobody owns their home in this country. Here, we assume thin mantles of ownership by agreeing to carry outrageous debt loads in lieu of owning a home we might actually afford. The more outrageous the debt load, the more prestigious the address. Credit-worthiness stands in for perhaps more responsible forms of citizenship. Those who have not found a bank willing to indenture them are considered second-class citizens, renters. Homeowners, or, more properly, "home-loaners" tend to stay in one place for a while, lending stability to an otherwise potentially footloose populous. Each homeowner engages in speculation, plotting for the place to be worth more than they paid for it by the time they decide to move. Almost nobody ever pays off their mortgage since that would erase the leverage loanership affords them, the opportunity to enjoy any increase in total value of a property they own only a small portion of.

Leverage is the name of this game, though it works both ways.

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"We're all always trying to make it back home."

Today was the opening day of major league baseball season, New Year's Day, the end of the long fallow season of no broadcast sports, unless one considers football, hockey, basketball, or soccer sports. I do not. Baseball qualifies as a sport because it's not what it appears to be, but an extended metaphor. Those other pastimes might pretend to be sports, but they lack the fundamentally metaphorical foundation of baseball. Home base pretty much says it all. Each game seems a hero's journey seeking home. Each play, a part of a building story, sometimes destined to become legend. Each player, a potential savior.

I don't know how many people understand this metaphorical aspect of baseball.

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"I'm always here whether here or there."

I spent much of last month connecting to my hometown's Main Street webcam. The adjacent browser tab continuously updated their latest weather report, which I'd dutifully report to a largely disinterested Muse. I could see the shadows of that usual gang gathering at the Starbucks to loudly recount the prior day's sports events, a distraction I despise when I'm tucked in the corner writing there, but those shadows seemed warmly attractive from so very far away. Each subsequent snowfall would leave the sidewalk snowbanks a little taller and Main Street a little slipperier. That webcam became my primary window on the world, more informative than a long gaze out of my own window. HomeSick works like this.

Most sicknesses involve an excess presence, but HomeSick arises from the opposite of that, an excess absence.

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" … because it's a SecretPassage if we go this way."

Home lies at one end of a SecretPassage, a route only the homeowner ever knows exists. Long proximity to the place eventually revealed this route which always existed, awaiting discovery by someone dedicated to finding it. Once discovered, only its discoverer knows its there and no one else ever suspects its presence. Everyone else sticks to the arterials, figuring that herd wisdom will serve them well enough. The consequent traffic jams seem simply the price of inhabiting the place. The homeowner snickers while slipping around.

I have long reveled in my SecretPassage knowledge, perhaps the one element distinguishing me from the madding crowd.

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"Each search seems irrelevant in the face of finally finding."

The menu seems comprised of vast NegativeSpaces delineating choices I would never seriously consider. The few positive choices, items which I might ultimately select, shrinks the options to a spare two or three. From thirty thousand feet, alternatives seem nigh-on infinite. Closer to the ground I've found the usual handful of hardly noteworthy alternatives. The tyranny of choice reliably presents many more unacceptables than attractives. The larger the store, the more chaff I must sift through to find what I would have more easily found in a mom and pop shop. I might know precisely what I'm looking for without holding any real authority to locate it within the overwhelming faux abundance looming around me.

My first wife and I traveled all around the East Coast looking for a place equivalent to the town I grew up in. Certain that we could not forge a living there, we exiled ourselves and began the search.

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"… we've been unable to shift to a renter's mindset …"

I fuss over our home like a new mother fusses over her newborn. The Villa Vatta Schmaltz seems dependent upon me, even while we're renting it out to The Muse's son and his partner, people who have demonstrated their ability to take care of the place. Home ownership seems a symbiotic sort of relationship, with me needing the big hairy responsibility every bit as much as the place needs my caring. I dream of returning to repaint the front of the place, fussing over scaffolding placement and finishing techniques, finding great reassurance there. I fuss about whether my prepping and painting skills will prove adequate for the job. I will wrestle every moment with haunting negative self-talk determined to convince me out of even engaging. Home is the burden I relish bearing.

I realize that I will never find a time when my home will become a source of leisure and pride.

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"One of us will make the move and dissolve this pernicious distance …"

Suddenly, a decade passed, ten successive years inhabiting alien territories knowing we would never belong there. Each place came with histories we appreciated without really understanding, for we were Just Visiting, not exactly in jail but in close enough proximity to remain insecurely out of the flow of the game. Other players bounced over and around us, going on with their transactional lives while we longingly watched, remembered, and some days dared to dream of our ParadiseMisplaced. We felt displaced but certainly capable of maintaining some semblance of normal activities of daily living. The Muse crafted a fresh career while I held fort, building a larder, dust mopping hardwood floors, and mowing somebody's else's lawns. The soil there seemed like some silly analogue of real dirt, clay or hardpan, rocky and rough. I improved each soil I touched knowing I would never see the future of any of it. We've spent the last decade Just Passing Through.

I seem to have become unemployable, unable to imagine myself surviving a job interview.

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