04 Nov, 2014

feeling “at home” means being unself-conscious…

Sehba Sarwar
04 Nov, 2014

Writer Lacy Johnson talks about feelings about “home” (photo: selfie by Lacy):

Feeling at home means not being aware of my body or appearance to others – being unself-conscious; being present and attuned to the rhythms of others.

I don’t have one answer to that question: “what is home?”. When I go “back home” to Missouri, I feel at home in the landscape – green trees, hills, the topography. That feels like home, but I often find the culture of that place repulsive. I’m repulsed by the racism, misogyny and bigotry that still flourish there. Here in Houston I find I’m more at home culturally – though that’s not to say Houston doesn’t have its own set of cultural problems. Still, the city feels more like a place I find welcoming and fruitful, but I don’t like the landscape. Too flat, too treeless, too paved. So for me home is not a geographic location. It’s a state of mind. In the end, cliché as it may sound, home is any place I am with my husband and kids – not necessarily Houston, not necessarily Missouri.

The space where I feel most at home is on a Saturday morning, when the kids have woken up and have joined us in our king-size bed. The dog is there and the sun is coming up. That could happen in our home, or in a hotel, or at a campsite or anywhere – and it would feel like home.

We are saying we want to raise our children in Houston – for now. But the world is a pretty big place. I want to move and keep moving. It’s the nature of my personality.

I have thought a lot about these things, especially when I was working on my first book. Lately, I feel nostalgic for certain traditions that are ingrained in my biorhythms because of the place where I grew up. At this time of year, for example, the air should be colder, the light should be softer. Houston doesn’t have that kind of weather. I feel “homesick” – nostalgic for what I’ve lost – for a time that has passed and only exists in memory. I could visit my family in Missouri, where the air and weather is what I expect right now, and I would still feel homesick. That has more to do with growing older, I think, than it does with where I live. My parents are divorced and my sisters and I don’t speak that often. Things change and keep changing. There is no going back.

One of my favorite things at this time of year is to hold an “orphan’s thanksgiving” – I bring people together, orphans by accident or by choice. It’s my favorite thing to do. I make my traditional foods, and my friends come over with their traditional foods: be it curry, posole, eggplant – whatever. And there’s no passive aggression, no guilt as we come together to celebrate this moment in time. Often these people don’t know each other, but I’m surrounding myself with people I love, showing them hospitality, and when all of these out-of-place people are all together, eating and drinking and celebrating the present: that feels like home. – Lacy Johnson

This conversation is part of my What Is Home? project that is funded in part by Mid-America Art Alliance’s Artistic Innovations grant.