My Heart, My Home

cute dog sitting on beach

The concept of home has been on my heart the past few days.

What defines it. What creates it. Its multidimensional layers- house, location, family, heart, belonging, connection, love- there are many ways to define home.

I’ve been working through my own relationship with home ever since we found out our sweet old dog, Samwise, has cancer and only a handful or so of months left. The complexity of my grief is heart-achingly substantial, but as I’ve deciphered its stratum, I’ve come to understand the breadth of my attachment in deeper ways.

Sam’s presence in my life has seen me through some significant passages including buying a home, getting married, losing my brother, quantum leaps of personal transformation, selling a home, closing a practice, leaving Alaska, moving to Kauai, and reestablishing a new life here- which is still a process undergoing construction.

That’s an awful lot of change for a 10 lb dog, who looks like a walking stuffed animal, to witness, and yet he’s witnessed it all and just accepted and loved myself and our family wherever we are at.

Samwise is a fundamental part of my concept of home and has been since he entered our lives in 2014, when I decided I needed the golden love of an old dog in my life and believed our family would be better for it.

I found myself cycling back to 2014 this past weekend.

We had a terrific house in Alaska. I loved our space and called it the rainbow cottage in the woods.

Right by the trail system. Bright walls, potted plants, vintage furniture, and colorful art curated and created an eclectic, cozy, cheerful feel. It perfectly supported our family’s needs down to the back patio, which caught the sunset and lingering light, and the front porch, which caught the morning sunrise and day’s warmth.

That porch was my sanctuary the summer after my brother died.

The winter had been so cold, gray, gritty, and dark- it echoed the annihilation and wasteland of loss I felt inside.

Summer came early that year. The lilac bushes began opening at May’s beginning, the grass was soon emerald, I filled the porch area with baskets upon baskets of bright flowers and created an oasis, which I thought of as my secret garden.

Fuchsia, hot orange, happy yellow, vibrant purple, deep red, electric violet: my grieving heart craved color and life, and drank up the blooms and summer breezes and gentle skies in great gulps.

I was content to sit, read, write, and just be in that space as much as I could. It was medicine for my broken being; wildflowers for my soul, which planted themselves in my grief space, reminding me life and beauty still go on.

I still have a visceral felt-sense of that time and those blooms and that version of self covered by the grace of summer 2016, and I miss that house and all it represented.

It was so hard to leave it behind, and yet I knew we couldn’t stay in Alaska just because of a home- not when my soul was so insistently calling me to Kauai. I assuaged my sorrow over leaving our home- giving away and selling so many items picked out just for that space- by reminding myself life comes around in new forms.

I trusted that something better was waiting in Kauai.

I traded pink peonies and lilac bushes and arctic roses for plumeria trees and cherry hibiscus and fragrant tuberose, which wafts into our window on warm night’s breeze. Those crisp, sunny Alaskan summer days have given way to the humid, balmy tropics.

Hours in the mountains have now become hours by the sea. Mountain shale is now red dirt trail. Favorite haunts and favorite places are being discovered and redefined.

The memories aren’t as thick and deep, but it’s okay to make new memories and make new meaning.

Because I did need to become something different and something other over here, and it’s important to remember that.

As I’ve time traveled and warp zoned and spiraled back to that Alaskan life, I’ve visited many remembrances in mind, heart and picture; smiling with tenderness, poignancy, gratitude, and a bit of longing.

I’ll admit that it’s hard to be unformed and living in a rented space, even though we’ve done our best to make it feel like home. There was a part of me who yearned this weekend as I’ve sorted through old pictures.

Imagined what it would be like to drive down Turnagain Arm again, climb Indian House Peak, stop at the grocery on the way home for all sorts of treats and snacks, and then settle into our bright green den for a movie night as all three pets cuddle around us.

And yet, as I sat with my yearnings, I had to acknowledge that as wonderful as that space was, there was nothing new for me to learn there. If I had stayed, there would have been more summers on the porch and winters in the mountains. More rainbow home and cozy moments and happy memories.

But there would not be growth. Alaska had become a beautiful incubator by the end.

That house was a box within a box- that claustrophobic feeling I had would only have worsened. Sam would still be sick and we’d be facing his inevitable loss. And I would still be feeling confined, constricted, and over burdened by my practice, trying to free something inside of me, which didn’t have creative, spiritual, or energetic space to grow.

I wouldn’t have had the growth and change I’ve experienced this past year had I not thrown myself into the great unknown.

Alaska was the known. Kauai has been nothing but change and unknowing.

Alaska was certitude and stability. Kauai is creative evolution and flow.

Alaska relied on my own devices, familiar grooves and ruts, and the security of my practice. Kauai relies on Spirit, Trust, and Belief I’m following my calling and becoming my Best Self.

Alaska was easy. Kauai is a wild ride.

Sam is laying next to me as I write these words. There’s roosters and chickens chasing each other outside my window. It’s 80 out, and we went down to the beach early when it was cooler and are now indoors in front of the fan. The avocado tree should be ripening soon, and the rainbow shower flowers are beginning to blossom around the island.

It’s a different kind of summer and a different kind of home.

But it is home now, and you can’t go back. Even if you could and did, it would never be the same. That is the grace of the transience of life.

Sam reminds me of this daily, as I can see he’s at peace with his own journey and he seems to know his time will be soon and only wants to be close to his beings these last months. I can also see that he has loved every moment he’s been a part of our family and will continue to love us wherever we are at on any given day until he knows it’s time to let go.

I’m doing my best to just love him and to pour him, our memories, and the love we have cherished into my heart, so I’ll take it with me always.

Because this I do know- houses may change, locations may change, relationships may change, moments may change, life may change – –

But the love inside will never change, and it is the surest compass I’ve found to always bring myself back to a space of home.