I just finished this book by Jeanette Winterson--
This book is a lot of things, but here is a passage I keep re-reading:
The Romanian philosopher Mircea Eliade talked about home - ontological as well as geographical home - and in a lovely phrase, he calls home 'the heart of the real'.
Home, he tells us, is the intersection of two lines - the vertical and horizontal. The vertical plane has heaven, or the upper world, at one end. The horizontal plane is the traffic of this world, moving to and fro - our own traffic and that of teeming others.
Home was a place of order. A place where the order of things come together - the living and dead- the spirits of ancestors and the present inhabitants, and the gathering up and stilling of all the to-and-fro.
For the refugee, for the homeless, the lack of this crucial coordinate in the placing of the self has severe consequences. At best, it must be managed, made up for in some way. At worst, a displaced person, literally, does not know which was is up, because there is no true north. No compass point. Home is much more than shelter; home is our center of gravity.
A nomadic people learn to take their homes with them - and the familiar objects are spread out or re-erected from place to place. When we move house, we take with us the invisible concept of home- but it is a very powerful concept. Mental health and emotional continuity do not require us to stay in the same place, but they do require a sturdy structure on the inside - and that structure is built in part by what has happened on the outside. The inside and outside of our lives are each the shell where we learn to live.
I have never been a "nester". I have made some efforts at rehabilitating myself by studying those who move in, paint, hang up pictures, and plant gardens within days of being in a new place. I have looked at decorating magazines and admired those homes that feel "homey", but my attempts are feeble and feel as foreign to me as Africa did on my one and only visit. I have unopened boxes of pictures I am sure I don't like anymore still languishing in the basement after 10 years, yet I have probably read 300 books within this time. Why do I choose one over the other?
Whenever I travel, whether I am camping or staying in a hotel, or even visiting my parent's home, I take at least 3 books and a journal. If I don't have these things, I feel unsettled...restless. Our current bedroom had no pictures on the walls for at least 7 years until my mother took matters into her own hands. But I regularly cull the nightstands for books completed, books I am currently reading, and books yet to read. Books are my home and writing is my touchstone. I have no idea why this is, but I think if I re-read this book I just might figure it out.