Personal Essays

Finding My Way Home

Funny, how your sense of “home” can suddenly be reduced to one tiny, furry, and very disgruntled housemate.

Six years ago, I loaded up my car, dropped my house key off at the realtor’s office, and my 10-year-old cat Nellie and I headed north to a new home in Oregon. I was moving to the land of ancient forests, wild rivers and new vistas – my opportunities limited only by my own imagination and daring.

I gave little thought to what I was leaving behind in California: friends, a house and garden, and a landscape I had known intimately for almost 25 years. Buoyed by the promise of new possibilities, I assumed it would take only a short time for me to settle in to my new life.

In reality, I found the process utterly disorienting. My sense of “home” – and by extension, my sense of myself – was gone. I found myself unmoored and adrift in this new landscape. Nellie became my home, a thread of continuity linking my old life to my new one, and I clung to that slender thread like a lifeline.

That fall, I began thinking a lot about what “home” meant to me. I wasn’t sure I knew the answer, but I knew I wasn’t there yet. I still felt like a visitor – someone who was just floating on the surface of this place. After a while, I stopped thinking much about it and resigned myself to feeling like a permanent outsider.

And then, working in my garden a few weeks ago, I realized with some surprise that something had shifted in me. Somehow, while my brain had been busy with other things, my heart had finally found its way home.