PLACES

Home is where your heart lives—in the people you love.

At my high school Modern Problems was a required class for seniors. I don't remember much about it except Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of human needs.

After graduating and experiencing life on my own for a while, I understood more fully that we need bread and beer, roofs over our heads, real friends, a good opinion of ourselves and opportunities to reach our potential. But I quickly discovered what was missing in Maslow's theory: Life without a home would be like having a football, a helmet and other players without a place to play the game.

I grew up in the 50's when the right to pursue happiness and the freedom that makes it possible became the American Dream to own a home. The 50's were also the age of rock and roll with songs on the radio telling me home is a person, not a place. When I am away from home, I want to get back to my wife, not the house. When we both leave together, I don't need the house because when I'm with her I am home. Stray dogs and homeless people look like they're searching for something, and they are: a familiar face, a place to be, a person to be with.

Bulldozers plundered the home I grew up in to make way for a housing tract. If I could go back there, I wouldn't need anyone to let me in because I still have the key: my memory. But all I would see is what's not there any more: the people who made it a home.

Somerset Maugham said some men grow up strangers in their own birthplace, then discover the place where they belong. That calls attention to the difference between alone and lonely. If you move to a new town, for example, you might grow tired of your own company by spending too much time with yourself because you don't know anyone. You could call or write people you knew in the town where you lived to remind yourself that distance doesn't end friendship. Communication is the tie that binds. "Loneliness," wrote Carl Jung, "doesn't come from having nobody around, but from not being able or willing to communicate what is sacred and valuable to you."

If you hang out with people who don't share your passion and your values, your real peers won't find you. Get out more so your real peers can find you. You have friends in this town like the ones back home. You just haven't met them yet.

Deep within each of us is the ability to distinguish the difference between feeling lonely and being alone. Perhaps this is a time in your life when you will learn new and exciting ways to get back in touch with yourself, to learn how to be comfortable with your own company. The world is a noisy, busy place. Perhaps this is a golden opportunity to nourish the sweet peace of silence.

Where you are now might be your real home, the home you've been looking for all your life, a place where you've found your people. For a house is not a home. A house is where you hang your hat, eat your meals and raise your children. Home is where your heart lives. Your feet can leave, but not your heart. And may you discover that other place where home has always lived: in the people you love.

So a house is a place that becomes a home because of the people that live there with you. You can put a picture of the place and the people in your scrapbook, but what do you do with the memories and the milestones associated with that place and those people? Add words to the pictures to convey things you cannot see. Explain what it meant to live in each of the places you called home.

LOVE & LUMBER

My father
with hammer, saw and nails
built a house for his family.
His calloused fingers
served vinyl-coated sinkers
from a leather bag
to the heavy hammer
stitching studs to sheathing
in the tree-covered hills of Tennessee.
My father never taught me
how to hammer nails with words.
It was watching him that taught me
how to make a house a home
by joining love and lumber
with a hammer of my own
and the certainty I learned from him.