are the places
we live in.
does it mean,
to be at home?
In my own,
my chosen home - explorations,
on the sense
AT HOME -
At some point, if we’re lucky, we know we're at home. We choose
to stay where we were born - that's where we know we want to be. Or we
move and settle elsewhere, sometimes in the same area, sometimes in a
far-off part of the world - and find that's right for us. Sometimes
we do the choosing. Sometimes we know when we've come to the right spot
- it's as if our home space has been waiting for us. If we're very lucky,
we feel at home in many places, any place we happen to find ourselves.
feels right at one time may not at another.
never find what feels like home.
But what does it mean: home, a chosen home, being at home, not being
I've been wondering about that for years.
my father died, and that brought up so much more. Like: what did home mean
to him, someone who left one continent to come to another, somehow who never
seemed to have a full feeling of being at home except in his own home - and
even there, much often did not feel homey.
He felt safest in his own home. It was his. It was hard for my mother
to drag him out. He particularly hated sleeping away from home. That
I left my parents' home at twenty, and never again slept a night there. I was
not comfortable. Nothing felt right.
I am not the good daughter, caring for my parents. I ran away from "home" -
my parents' home. I did not actually run away. I moved out, and not at
such an early age. But I did move far away, inside myself. I did not
want to go back.
is the good daughter, spending much more time with my parents, at their place,
and taking them into her life.
If there is anywhere my father felt truly, deeply at home, it was when
he imagined, imagined himself in the stories he was reading, and when
he was writing, sitting at the computer, writing and reliving.
life, until his last two years when micro-strokes were beginning to do their
damage, he read avidly: westerns, science fiction, encyclopedias, comics, classics.
He lived in them - I know because so did I, and it took me until I was over
thirty to figure out how unlike I was from many of the characters I was living
myself into. They dared things I did not, especially when it came to getting
close to people.
did he ever recognize the ways he was not like the western heroes he read about?
I keep coming back to: my father is dead, killed on impact in a fluke
car accident. That my father is dead is new for me, almost unbelievable.
And that has made me think so much about him. I am thinking about him
more than I spent time with my parents in my adulthood.
has said, it was obvious you loved him a lot, but you just couldn't make it
work in life.
And I think,
what a pity that I could not find, in my father's lifetime anyway, a way of
being with my father - such an intelligent, curious, deeply feeling man - a
way in which we were at home with each other.
but was not good at listening - except for the one time in my life when I was
hurt enough to call out to anyone and everyone, and he was there, would have
been there for much longer than I wanted it. But soon he was calling to offer
his shoulder and I was no longer suffering that much - and we went back to
my calling him occasionally, and to his talking about himself, cutting me off
when I talked, and to my listening and resenting.
know what the calls were like for him - he could just talk and talk - but he
probably sensed that he did not get deep listening. Two lonelinesses on the
Home. When I left home, I found out, to my amazement, how easy it was
to keep a place neat and homey, so that I would feel a welcome coming
at me when I entered.
It had always
been too much for my mother - though not for other women, as I was amazed to
discover when I entered other homes as a child. How is it possible, I wondered,
that the places are so tidy?
out that it was easy for me when I left home - and came home in another way.
Home as a restful place, things in place. No very organized neatness, but a
general sense of comfortable things all around.
And yet I took so much from home, so many unwanted things: my shyness,
my being ill at ease, my not daring to reach out, my sense of being forever
the unwelcome outsider. The world was not my home space - though I wanted
so much to help with the world, with the misery, poverty, violence, war.
But I could
not find a way to make the world my home. I found a partner, a caring partner,
but I could not make that a true home either.
I was locked
inside myself, locked even from myself.
I was not
the first tiny place, where I lived alone, even my most of the places I lived
were not what I wanted. I did so much of the home-making (curtains, sheets,
towels, arranging), but we lived in places of my partner's choice: he liked
high rises (all finished, easy to maintain) and I never felt at home in them.
Later he liked old houses, but that was mainly after our time.
was at home when I was reading - but could not find a home for my writings.
In that, I was maybe again like my father, though I dared, unlike him,
to send things to publishers.
Maybe I was drawn to exploring the meaning of home because home is where
I have not fully been. And maybe for that reason, the country place my
partner and I have made our home is especially important to me. That
is where the words that became the spark for this project came to me: "in
my own, my chosen home."
for years that place was the least homelike of any space I have been in: ceilings
down, plaster and construction material everywhere, walls gutted, nothing working,
windows installed in sub-zero January weather.
of home was strong. From the first, it felt like it could be home - though
later I often despaired.
about it as my chosen home long before it was finished.
this place too, my partner and I are learning, or trying to anyway, to
create the core of a home: loving togetherness.
And that brings me back to my father - because he and my mother in many
ways could not manage this, though each tried in their own way.
I think again of my father. Of his last night.
He did not
feel at home on his last night. He was feeling less and less at home in himself.
A micro-stroke in his thalamus had left him easily confused about time and
space. What had, all his life, given him pleasure - thinking, reading, writing
- no longer felt right. Physical work was coming to be harder and harder. A
pill he took the last two days (a pill prescribed by a doctor after my call
to the doctor) had the unwanted effect of making him more anxious, rather than
more relaxed - though the dose was minimal.
On his last
night, he went for a walk into the night. My mother woke up, called, could
not find him, was terrified, had chest pains. The police were called - and
found him less than a ten-minute walk from the house, on the road he took so
often with my mother. He was so ashamed - to be picked up by the police. And
my mother was angered - how could he do such a thing to her? She could not
understand he was helpless against what was happening to him. He was restless,
needed to move.
I did not find out what had happened until the next afternoon. Missed
calls, missed connections.
found out and talked to him, maybe forty-five minutes before his death.
is getting worse and worse around here," he said. "This is not a
good place anymore." I thought of his shame at being picked up by the
would have done the same," I said. "If you had woken up and found
Mommy gone, you would have called the police - because you care about her and
you would want her safe."
said, sounding relieved. "Yes, I would have done that." Because yes,
he would have done whatever he could to take care of her, protect her.
to me as if something eased inside him, maybe as if his sense of shame dropped
away, as if he saw himself as a rescuer, ready to call on any help to rescue
my mother, should she ever get lost.
At any rate,
that is my fantasy.
But I did not go to my parents' place, over an hour away. My sister
was there. I was busy. Had a deadline two days away. My sister would
have liked me to come. I chose not to.
I will never know for sure if I eased his mind or not. Forty-five minutes
later, my father is dead, dead in a car crash. My mother was driving,
survived with no serious injuries.
know his last thoughts. I do wonder, where did he truly feel at home? He was
not at home in the car. He did not want to go to my sister's, where my parents
were heading - but my mother absolutely needed to get away. But things were
fine once he got into the car.
did he feel truly at home?
his own home.
And he himself
made sure - unwittingly - that he was often not welcomed, not in a deep way,
in his own home.
For years, drinking. For almost his whole lifetime, smoking - even when it
brought on huge asthma attacks in his youngest child.
if there was one thing he wanted, it is - was - to love and be loved.
and I found what I call our chosen home a few years ago - just the barest of
hints of what it could be - and yet the view was there, and an old building,
pre-renovated in ways that did not suit us.
But at most,
what we found was a building.
Home - a place we feel at home in, secure, at one, ourselves, safe,
protected, at peace.
The key's in the lock. I turn it, open the door carefully - to be sure
the dogs don't whip out.
I am at
home. I can relax, let down my guard, my hair, whatever. A weight is off my
shoulders. No one is watching - when I am alone.
that often means loneliness. My partner is off working thousands of miles away.
But togetherness is also not always easy. Does one of us want to work, day
after day, way later than the other? So many other things come in.
I was at home, deeply at home, nowhere as a child. Not at school though
I was a good student who loved learning, not on the street though I loved
playing. My sister and I were outsiders, members (by virtue of where
we came from) of a bad group.
the safest place.
it was good. Music. Books. Two parents who wanted the best for their children,
organized their lives around us, supported me when I wrote and put on a play
(which took three years in the doing). My father dreamed along with me when
I read comics. He cared about injustices.
there were good times. Lots of good times. And there was so much trying.
the hope and the trying - and the sense that things were always a bit too much,
like making it in this confusing new world where the old ways of making a living
did not quite work, where the rules were different.
things were, out and out, not so great. My father's anger - not frequent, but
intense. My anger - such a source of shame. I did not want it, hated it, always
believed I would now never get angry again because I certainly did not want
to. My mother's difficulty hearing some things, things to do with feelings
and also the outside world, when reality conflicted with her beliefs. My sister
and I had a world of our own - partly safe and partly not.
When I look
at photos of my child self, I see a shy child, held inside herself, ill at
ease, and yet sure about doing things in different, unusual ways (like my hair)
- individual, not trying to be like others. I put on a play though no one else
did anything like that, except in the books I read. But I was also terrified
of being laughed at, which made me a bad actress in the play I put on.
I come to my question: what really makes us feel at home?
My father would not have felt at home in the place this project had
its first presentation/vernisssage - an art gallery.
One of his
most intense experiences of shame happened at the Vienna Opera House. He was
maybe sixteen. An actress from his home village gave him a ticket. It was after
the war. He was young and poor. All he had to wear was a pair of white shorts
and a short-sleeved white shirt - or was it a white undershirt? The actress
said anything was fine.
else, every other man, was in black tie and tails.
in his head, that what he wore did not matter. What mattered was what was inside
himself. Those were his beliefs, and those beliefs led him to go to the Opera
did not help him with what he felt. They did not do away with the inside cringing,
the sense of being forever outside.
he was also good at making others - me, at any rate - ashamed of him. I remember
his being in an undershirt when my partner and I came to visit. It was a visit
relatively early in our relationship. My father then proceeded to demonstrate,
in harrowing detail, exactly how to comb hair (hair forward, hair back, hair
sideways) to prevent baldness. It was quite a while before he could be persuaded
to put on a shirt.
I was certainly
not proud of him. Probably I was a bit too fragile inside myself just to laugh
I did not
feel at home.
You are ashamed of this place, my father said a few years ago about
my parents' home. I did not want to say yes, so I said nothing. Peeling
tarpaper on the outside. A balcony covered by more tarpaper. Everything
cramped, crowded, overwhelming on the inside. So many marvelous touches,
so much work - and so much that did not come together. I just wanted
again, shame. I have never felt proud to take anyone to my parents' place.
I have, about so many things, been proud of my parents: their generosity, their
caring, my father's reading and questing and thinking. They wanted me to do
whatever it was I wanted to do. They backed me. My father was pleased when
I went to university.
only was I not at ease in their place. Even before I left home, I could not
feel at ease, at home inside myself, when with them.
But while I did not feel at home with my parents, I did not feel at
home away from home either - except in my very own space, mine.
And in that,
I recognize I was very much like my father. He invited, wanted everyone to
come to him - because he did not feel really welcome, at ease, elsewhere.
Maybe coming to be at home is a project I have inherited from my parents.
Neither came from a warm, secure, loving home. Both did much better than
was given to them, and yet there was such a distance left to go. I am
trying my own best, which so often is also not as good as it could be,
should be. My father died with only a snippet of comfort from me - I
could have, should have, done better. been much more present for him
so the world he was coming to inhabit (a world changed by his stroke
which damaged his sense of time and space) would be a warmer place, less
threatening, more a home.
And a month
later my dog died, was hit by a car, because I allowed her out near our country
place though I never felt right doing that. My partner thought I was foolish
not to let her run as she liked - hardly any cars went past our place. And
I could not hold to my own certainty that, even if there was hardly ever a
car, just one car could kill Fluffers, who loved chasing them - an instinctive
bit of behavior she must have inherited from hunting times, when a pack of
wolves would tackle an animal and bring it down and kill it. Not a good piece
of genetic programming for a dog with huge metal monsters which kill if the
dog is struck by them and sent flying. But my task was to protect her from
herself, and that night I did not do that.
I heard music in my head, driving to my father after his death, and
again when driving a day after Fluffer's death. The songs were different.
For my father, I heard a song from childhood, an old Viennese song (my
parents are from Vienna) with a soft lilt:
ein lieber letzter Gruss
there has to
too much pain
a loving last greeting
Servus is what the Viennese say on meeting and leaving.
of leave-taking is in the song - we are to say Servus because other words hurt
too much. So the pain is obviously there, just softened by the word.
I can see
my father now, in my mind's eye, dancing to it, in a wonderful shirt of my
sister's (a shirt he wore several times on the last holiday he took, the first
I took him and my mother on). He is dancing in it, alone, then with me, then
my sister, then my mother. His clothing changes, to the formal black tie and
tails he wore to the Opera Ball, where my sister sent him and my mother. Then
he is back alone, walking down a road he walked on in that last holiday. I
hope my little dog is with him.
For Fluffers the song is different: Hopelessly Devoted to You. I had
been playing the soundtrack to Grease on her last day, while making breakfast,
and I must have heard that piece.
after her death I had to leave the house for a few hours. Driving away, first
I saw her (in my mind's eye), on my lap, as she often was, when she was a puppy,
licking my face happily. Later during the drive, about an hour later, she changed
and licked my face frantically - as she would frantically be affectionate if
she was hurt in any way, as if to say, I didn’t mean it, love me - or
as if to say, take the hurt away, take the hurt away. And I could only think
of her last minute, so badly hurt, when the best I could do was call her name
lovingly, but could not take the pain away. And then Hopelessly Devoted to
You began to play in my head, over and over and over. And then You're the One
know if one can soothe after death - if something of a creature stays and may
need soothing, but in my mind's eye, I tried to comfort her, tell her, it's
all right, it’s all right, good girl, good girl, Fluffers is a good girl,
Elsa loves you, everything will be all right, everything will be all right.
song was my way of soothing myself. Of lessening the sense of emptiness and
sorrow. And maybe it also told the truth of the relationship between Fluffers
the song changed to The World is Empty Without You - again maybe to soothe
her, because she so wanted all the love, and maybe also because though my love
flows in other directions, my life did feel deserted, empty, without her.
I am still trying to make a good enough home, for whoever is in it and
comes into it. And I will keep my father and Fluffers - and others -
inside my heart, a home space for them.
May 1, 2004
copyright © Elsa Schieder 2006
publishing house - FlufferDuff Impressions 2006
home means to you
To go to thoughts
about home and about the creation of these word pieces on home,
along with the word pieces / spoken word poems / mood rap pieces / poems,
To go to the word
piece - in my own, my chosen home -
that came to me as my home was starting to come together,
To go to the welcome page
in my own, my chosen home,
To go to the creativity blog,
on the development of
elsas word story image idea music emporium, click
To go home -
meaning to the opening page of this site - clilck
top of page
In My Own, My Chosen Home -
thoughts on the meaning of chosen home
Just what does it mean - chosen home?
To what extent do we choose our home, and to what extent is our response
to certain places built into us? I remember loving the low rolling hills
east of Calgary years and years ago - I felt good there. Now I live on
a high plateau, a wide open space with a view over miles and miles of
fields and forests. Right now the trees are changing color, much like
when I wrote the word piece that became the spark for this project -
in my own, my chosen home. The view is not so different from the fields
east of Calgary. It feels to me as if there is something about wide open
spaces, yet with rolling hills, that evokes a feeling of home in me -
I didn't choose where I was born - Vienna
a few years after the end of the second world war. My parents were lucky
to have a tiny home of their own - one small room all to themselves,
with their own entrance to the world. The toilet was down the hall -
it was for all the apartments (if apartments isn't too fancy a word for
where they lived). But a home of their own - that was something for a
young couple in postwar Vienna.
But did my sense of home start there -
apparently there was a huge window, bringing in way too much heat in
summer, but also loads of light, something I have often loved.
Chosen home - I think this name came to
me also because I'm the child of immigrants. To some extent they chose
to leave - with dreams of a promised land, a land flowing with adventure,
like in the Westerns my father had loved since early childhood, and a
land flowing with opportunities, as shown in the films my mother saw
at the Canadian consulate. Eacgh of my parents chose to leave, lured
by different possibilities, stirred by different dreams, hopes, fears.
Yet for neither of them did Canada truly deeply become home - in some
ways, one cannot choose to be at home. This was not, deep inside, their
chosen home. My father had burned all bridges to a flourishing buisness
- he would have had a hard time choosing to go back home, he would have
had an emornously difficult time acknowledging that deep inside he longed
for another home, did not feel fully at home.
I have chosen to stay. This is a choice
- because in my generation masses of English-speaking people chose to
leave, chose to make their home elsewhere where English was welcome,
where there was no separatist movement.
To what extent, actually, is this my chosen
home - and to what extent did I just never make the choice to leave?
Did I really choose to stay, that is?
Now my partner and I are rooted in our
home - our personal home. Our chosen home is also the closest large city
- which was where we lived, home, for decades. To some extent Montreal
will always feel like home. Out here in the country is my personal home
space. But the city is home in another way - the stores, the streets,
the parks, the restaurants, the people, downtown - and my work.
There is so much more on chosen home,
but this is the beginning. In my own, my chosen home - thoughts, reflections,
word pieces, music. My chosen home, and the chosen homes of many others.
October 1, 2006
copyright © Elsa Schieder 2006
publishing house - FlufferDuff Impressions 2006
chosen home, home
place, chosen home, home space, chosen home, forever at home,
home is where the heart is, chosen home, homeward bound, chosen home,
chosen home, no matter how humble there's no place like home, chosen
home home on the range where the deer and the antelope play, chosen home,
home - where my heart is waiting silently for me, chosen home, falling
outward bound, chosen home, homeward bound, chosen home, o give me a
hearth, heartland, chosen home, home cooking, home baking, home fries,
home schooling, chosen home, home fooling, chosen home, home and garden,
family, street, neighborhood, chosen home, countryside, familiar sights
and sounds, chosen home,
safety, security, comfort, a roof over my head, a place to put my bags
down, a place to call my own, chosen home, chosen home,the world is my
home, chosen home, chosen home, the world is my oyster,
homeless, roofless, rootless, uprooted, hungry, wretched, restless, wanderlust,
wretched like a homeless child, the wretched of the earth, not a crust
of bread, o give me a home,
my home my native land, homeland, mother tongue, father land, deep rooted,
chosen home, home place, homestead, homesteading, chosen home, home ties,
chosen home, highrise, condo, apartment, house, split level, farm, barn,
farmyard, vegetable garden, flower beds, chosen home, homeless animals,
the sheltering sky, the sweltering sky, chosen home, the far north, wide
chosen home, the seasons, the world is my home, my home is the world,
at home in,
at home in words, at home in ideas, at home among people, forever at
home, never at home,
homeless and friendless, not a friend in the world, a friend in need
is a friend indeed,
chosen home, the luxury of choice, not feeling a home, out of place,
o give me a home
site design, site construction
- Elsa Schieder
copyright © Elsa Schieder, 2006 - all rights reserved
copyright © elsas-word-story-image-idea-music-emporium.com,
2006-2007 - all rights reserved
an all round creative space, creativity emporium and creativity
HERE TO CONTACT
elsas word story image idea
are the places
we live in.
does it mean,
to be at home?
In my own,
my chosen home - explorations,
on the sense