Being at Home, Being Away

I am just now home. I went to Alberta, my home province, last Wednesday for a church convention and then I took advantage of the travel to visit some family members these last few days. It is always an interesting experience to travel “home.” While I was at the convention I spoke with a couple of people – one who was originally from France and the other from the Philippines – who spoke of the odd feeling of having resided in two different countries and feeling as if you really belonged in neither. I’m not quite sure that this describes the experience of living some 4000 kms away from your home town yet in the same country, but it might approximate it.

In some ways going back to Alberta is and always will be a homecoming. This is the province of my birth, youth, marriage, and the birth of my children. Moreover, people I love are buried here and so there is land there that is, in a fashion, holy to me. Yet it is no longer my province. Much has changed since I left some 14 years ago. Ontario is home, and yet my roots here are only 18 years deep. I am a sapling in this province, and so find existence here a bit more tenuous – not in the sense that I worry about my health, a roof over my head, or having food in my cupboard but in the sense that calling this place home seems more like a wager, more a gesture than a hard fact.

In a way, I feel spread across the country. I am sure many have felt this way and can better explain it than me. But it seems that this stretch is of a piece of my identity. I am quite certain that it is utterly unlike the experience of immigrants in many ways, but oddly enough, it also reminds me of my immigrant origins – having a mother born in Europe and paternal grandparents from Europe as well. My people are from away and I am from away even while I stay in the country: dislocation is where I dwell. I think this a good thing. A sage from an earlier time tells me and those with ears to hear that the faithful are ever foreigners and aliens. Being a guest is my vocation. I am “rooted” in the hospitality of others, an experience revisited time and time again at the convention.

The theme of our convention was “Liberated by Grace.” As we pondered this theme, many speakers reminded us that liberation is found in our experience of being freed to serve; in our experience of reciprocating the gift of hospitality with generosity. We pondered how this grace catches us unaware in the embrace of a circle, in the beat of a drum and in the song of the land. We remembered that returning the gifts encountered on this land with generosity is simply “grace upon grace.” Giving itself is a gift and so, we are blessed in discovering ourselves at home in serving others.

8 thoughts on “Being at Home, Being Away

  1. dianerivers says:

    “Rooted in the hospitality of others.” What a great gift that is – we would all do well to realize the importance of discovering (and providing) such roots. Welcome home!

  2. diannegray says:

    I was born on the other side of the country as well, Allen. I understand what it’s like to ‘go back’. The different weather, the smells, the crowds all remind me of my younger days. It can tug at the heartstrings but I’m always glad to get back to my ‘now’ home 😀

    • agjorgenson says:

      Thanks for this. I have to admit that the heartstring tug gets a little less over the years. It is a bit of a wistful feeling I experience. Not really sad, but an odd emotion.

  3. shoreacres says:

    I’ve been thinking about such things, off and on. My parents are buried in the town where I was born and raised, and there is a spot for me to be buried there, as well. On the other hand, I happened to obtain a “bargain” cemetery plot in the Texas countryside, so I could be buried here, too. Where to land?

    It’s funny, because now, when people ask me where I’m from, I always say, “Texas.” Texas feels like home in a way Iowa never did. Of course, I’ve been here, off and on, for forty-two years — more than some peoples’ lifetimes!

    And then there’s this: no matter where I am, I instinctively refer to it as home. If I’m cruising on a boat, I refer to the boat as home. I’ll say, “Let’s go home.” If I’ve checked into a motel for a night, I’ll tell someone, “I need to go home now.” Home is here, just now, but when I begin writing about my sojourn at an 1800s fort a few weeks ago, that will be a recollection of home.

    It’s an interesting phenomenon. The old song says, “I ain’t got no home in this world anymore.” But I seem to have the opposite experience: the whole worth is my home.

    (There’s a possible, important corollary here. If the world is home, by definition there aren’t any strangers.)

    • agjorgenson says:

      Thanks, I especially like that last bit! I think that part of what makes Ontario home now is that the current house is the one that I have lived the longest in for my entire life. Also I have spend more time at my current job than any other. But still, home is an elusive category.

  4. p kane says:

    Absolutely lovely! Date: Thu, 16 Jul 2015 02:40:34 +0000 To:

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