All it takes is a sunny day, a chair facing north east, trees reaching into a blue sky, a few ants or daddy-longlegs and a soft breeze to move the shadows upon the ground! That’s all it takes for me to feel at HOME . . . on earth, within myself, and with God (at least for the time being!).
I was recently given an entire day of such grace! I pondered a lot about HOME and at-home-ness, about
strangers and estrangement, community and loneliness, children being warmly loved or those left out
in the cold. As human beings, it seems we have a common DNA, a fierce longing for HOME. Many are
blessed with that gift all their lives; others do not enjoy equal fare. One can see the longing in their
eyes, witness it in their actions or hear it in their words. We long for HOME . . among our siblings, in
school, at work, in community and surely in the Church. “Catholics expect to find it in their parishes,
with a pastor who provides a rich diet of spiritual food and who meets people where they are (S.
Katarina Schuth, OSF, in an address recently given at the 15th annual Philip J. Murnion Lecture in N.Y. See: The Visitor, June 21, p. 16)).”
Robert Frost’s poem, “The Death of a Hired Man,” likewise addresses the theme of HOME and reminds
me of how differently we define at-home-ness. You may remember Silas. Warren and Mary have hired
Silas, year after year, at haying time because he had a gift. It seems his one accomplishment was that
he could bundle every forkful of hay, tag and number it for future reference so that he could find and
easily dislodge it in the unloading. “Silas does that well. He takes it out in bunches like birds’ nests.
You never see him standing on the hay he’s trying to lift, straining to lift himself.” Yet, Silas is a
wanderer, a loner; he is gifted but is also irresponsible: he leaves just when Warren needs him most,
only to return later expecting to be hired for a few more coins with which he can buy “a bit of tobacco
so he won’t have to beg and be beholden.”
It’s haying time again on Mary and Warren’s farm. Of course, Silas is back! But this time, Mary scarcely
recognizes him. Age and brokenness tell her that his return is not to “ditch the meadow or clear the
upper pasture” as he had so often promised. . . but he had returned HOME to die. Warren, however,
isn’t so sure; he has had his fill of the Silas routine. “Home?” he mocks. And Mary: “Yes, what else but
home? It all depends on what you mean by home. . .” Angrily, Warren defines it in one way: “Home is
the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” He is countered by Mary’s “I
should have called it something you somehow haven’t to deserve.”
You know the story line. Silas, the stranger, except at haying time and when in need, did, indeed, come
home to die. Regardless of Warren’s and Mary’s differing perspectives—both of which have validity,
Silas had been inextricably DRAWN to the place that HE considered HOME. Warren found him on the
bed. Silas didn’t care about differing perspectives; he went where his heart and soul drew him. So,
too, do we, when we go HOME.
Renée Domeier, OSB