The Poetics Of Home

The Poetics Of Home


frontdoor_3Home. Is it defined by where you’re from or where you currently live? Is it the physical hall or the feet running through it? Is it the dining room table or the people eating at it? As someone who recently moved his family from the South to Oxford, England, we asked Timothy Willard, co-author of Home Behind The Sun, for his reflections on the subject.

How do you define a home?

Home is a kinship, and kinship is a language. It is like poetic diction, the “thing” we can’t articulate but know it’s there. If you want the language of kinship to grow, you must give it time. And time is something we have little of.

In our modern society, how are we redefining what we call a home?

In today’s world, the concept of home seems fragmented and disparate. One could argue that the traditional definitions of home are gone, while the modern idea looks more like a stained glass window displaying all the different places we’ve been. We are the displaced and the ragged-run travelers of the “move here to get it done” society. We hang our hats for the moment and call it home – and then off again to the next. The question is: if home is not the physical things in a house, then how can we flourish in the global movement of displaced people who belong both everywhere and nowhere at the same time?

How do you approach the idea of “home” in the context where we are from vs. where we are now?

Origins extend beyond walls and hallways and embed themselves in our relationships. But origins trace to the here and now. But home’s physical location means less than who contributes to that sense of belonging, that desire for shelter and that language of kinship.

Talk about the concept from the perspective of place and person.

It’s not our hats we are hanging. It’s ourselves. We put out the shingle of our lives at each physical place we find ourselves. In this way, home extends beyond place and into belonging. Yes, we’re here for a job or to be near family or to get away from hard circumstances, but the place remains just another opportunity for belonging. It is through this belonging that we find the language of home.

What are other universal themes that we need to create a home?

Home is shelter, the language of safety and trust – those intrinsic qualities of life that often escape our everyday experience. Why else do we lament, “I just want to get home?” We yearn for home because we want to walk around the hallways and sit at a table of sanctuary; we want to escape to the back patio and rest in conversation with our loved ones, our friends and ourselves.

Why does it ultimately matter how we think about and define our “home?”

We need home because it is in our togetherness that we find safety, a freedom that gives to our soul and nourishes the souls of those we love. This is what sanctuary provides. Does your home give this? Do you gather with those embedded in your life? Have you cast off the noise of phones, computers and televisions and renewed your understanding of the language of you and me, of kinship, of home?

Lead photo by Russell Shaw

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