The Naked Will
Dwelling Well

Wanderlust and Homecoming

Route_66"I am a product of long corridors, empty sunlit rooms, upstairs indoor silences, attics explored in solitude, distant noises of gurgling cisterns and pipes, and the noise of wind under the tiles. Also, of endless books." (C.S. Lewis, in Surprised By Joy)

When I was a very young boy, I was sent to bed for the night but often found myself awake, lying in bed. I watched the headlights from cars passing on the parkway outside, how they would begin at the corner nearest the window, where the wall met the ceiling, and then as the car passed by would move around two walls of my room. It was hypnotic and better than counting sheep, which never seemed to work for me. Even then, I remember wondering where people were going so late at night, and I imagined perhaps they lived on the other side of town or maybe in another state. The world was awake outside my window and things were happening, and yet I was bed-bound.

That was the beginnings of my wanderlust. Later I rode shotgun with my parents at the age of six or seven, map open, directing them to "turn right, here," or "take the highway there," falling asleep with the red and blue lines of the map and city names playing in my mind. And I remember it was never enough to simply be somewhere but only to be going somewhere, planning a trip, wondering what was around the next turn, what the new day would bring. The real thing was never quite as good as what I imagined it to be, never living up to the promise of the map in my hands. Talk to me now and I'll be planning a trip. Ask me. I'm dreaming up one now. The map is on the floor by my desk.

However, concurrent with this wanderlust is a competing desire to go home. When I'm traveling I take great pleasure in thinking of home and longing to return there. In fact, I think that homelust, if that's a word, begins the day I set out. When you are wandering, nothing is quite like home. You sleep poorly. The food is inconsistent in quality. I'm constantly thinking of family and friends at home, of the things of home, and longing for those familiar places of my house. Really, I'm homesick.

I'm not sure what all this means spiritually. Eudora Welty once said that "one place comprehended can make us understand other places better." Undoubtedly the child C.S. Lewis wandering the rooms and halls of his home, often alone or with his brother Warnie, is a product of that place, of its sounds and places. To recall it is to root yourself, to remember a secure place. Perhaps that's a part of homesickness --- a remembering of a place familiar to us and where we feel secure, where we know ourselves and others best: the step at the top of the stairs where I sit to have a conversation with my wife; the particular sounds outside my open window; my daughter singing to herself; the chair by the bedroom window; or the way the light plays on the stone wall outside the den window. This is home.

Perhaps I long for the unfamiliar for its heightening of the familiar. Maybe I wander so I can better know my home. Maybe, just maybe, all this wandering and homesickness is just a dress rehearsal for the day I really go Home.