It’s Good to be Home

“Welcome back! No, welcome home.”

I looked up, caught flat-footed, at the young woman unloading cargo from the plane. She smiled at me, glad and familiar, and you could have knocked me over with a feather.

“Thanks! It’s really, really good to be here.” I said it a little too brightly, still off-balance. I don’t really expect to be welcomed home when I step off the plane in Arctic.

It’s not that people aren’t welcoming. Most are.

But home.

This is my home, if I can be said to have one. When I am not here, I am traveling, sleeping in a bed one night for every thirty in a tent. The house I grew up in was sold last summer to a stranger who I hear has since filled it with tropical birds. My family lives in an RV.

It goes a lot deeper than circumstance: I love these children with the fiercest part of my heart, worry over them, watch them grow up, and feel pride and pain both on their accounts. The land too: the smell of labrador tea and the taste of caribou meat and the color of twilight dusk-dawn at fifty below when the chimneys smoke sideways; it all makes my heart vibrate with a bone-deep note of yes. This is where I belong. And it is. I have never loved a place so much.

But this is my home in the way that white people mean home. It is my home by luck and love, not by right. I have no ancestral homeland, no blood and culture ties that go deeper and older than the permafrost. Most of us don’t. Four-year-old A said it best tonight: she put one hand on each of my cheeks and pulled down with her thumbs, then leaned in so close I could almost taste her runny nose; “your eyes are blue!” she hollered, and all the other kids had to come and take a look. Four serious little gap-toothed brown-eyed girls inspected my face and A held my cheeks still so my eyes wouldn’t go squinty when I laughed.

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Home? Home! 

3 thoughts on “It’s Good to be Home

    • Our kids are a treat. They never fail to delight and surprise.
      Upriver this weekend! Geoff and I got the boat in and the tent set up last weekend, so we’re ready to go look around on the Junjik for a few days. What a pleasure to have the time.

  1. Humans are migrants by nature, otherwise we’d all be living in Africa. I don’t feel it needs centuries or millenia of family ties to a certain spot on the globe to feel an intimate, deep connection to it. Maybe what we feel connetcted to has to do more with personality than family history?
    I left Germany at age 24, never having felt at home there despite being German. I do have a more intimate knowledge of German culture than Canadian culture. I think that’s maybe something we can never make up for when we move to a different country or even region of our own country – the little inside jokes, idioms, the songs and kids’ tv shows everybody who grew up there knows, the personal family stories of what happened where.
    But to me “home” is a holistic thing that includes all the other life forms, the elements and the landscape – how I relate to all this and what it does to me. The ties I create not just with people, but with the land. Home is the place that’s me, as opposed to the place of my family background.
    I think most people who move/migrate encounter that divide between themselves and the locals who have both, the family background AND the connection to the place. It seems to be human nature to pick up more on what makes us different rather than what unites us.
    But I feel the conscious decision to pack up one’s life, leave family and friends behind to start from zero somewhere new because we’re irresistably and/or because we fell in love with it is the most positive, home-affirming action possible – precisely because we weren’t simply born into it.

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