"When I finish my travels I will solve the riddle of home.
When I finish my travels, I will know the answer."
A Year In The World, Frances Mayes
I love Frances Mayes' writing. I just closed the cover on her latest, A Year In The World, and I feel as if I've traveled along with her from Istanbul to Lochleaven and everywhere in between.
It isn't just the picturesque travelogue she brings us in her books, it's her evocative writing style, rife with homey personal details about each day on the road, what she and her traveling companions eat and do, the history of the places they visit, and what it all means to her. I copied huge chunks of her writing into my own notebook, just for the pleasure of having her words flow vicariously from my own pen.
In this book, Mayes often alludes to her relationship with "home." She writes that her "profound desire for home, for the profoundly beautiful nest, the kitchen garden, the friends gathered at my table, for the candlelit baths, and the objects arranged and the books in order, and most of all the sense of this is my place - all that has been at the mercy of an equal force, the desire to shut the door, turn the key, and go. Go."
I have been wrestling with the idea of "home" for the past few days myself, as I am extremely drawn to "GO" - to France, to Florida, to England, to California, to all the places that I already know I love as well as those that are enticing me because they hold the promise of new vistas and exciting adventures. But, in equal measure, I am held back by the safety and familiarity of my own "beautiful nest," and the sense that "this is my place." It is, as Mayes puts it, an "oxymoronic desire, for the domestic and the opposite."
For me, my struggle with leaving home is deeply rooted in my upbringing, which Mayes also acknowledges is true for all of us. "The first events in your life slap you into the shape you take," she writes. When I was a child, my family never traveled- there was something mysteriously fearful about leaving home, some bad thing that would or could happen, and it just wasn't worth taking the chance. I think I still harbor the fear that, if I leave home, something "bad" will happen not to me, but to the ones I leave behind, almost as "punishment" for my wanderlust.
In spite of the fears, the wanderlust is still there. So I devour books like Mayes', filled with the images and impressions of a life so different from my own. I eagerly gobble up friends descriptions of their trips, and gaze hungrily at the photos they post on the internet. I think there is magic in traveling, in the wisdom you gain from it, the sense of personal satisfaction, the possibilities it opens in your mind. Mayes concludes her narrative by saying that her travels are like the gift of a "transforming angel: you go out, far out, and when you return, you have the power to transform your life." As much as I love my backyard these days, I also have a huge appetite for life transformation. I just need the courage to get up from the table and partake of the feast.