Every morning, I start the day by greeting the garden: the steady presence of the trees, the flitting about of the birds in their branches, and all the other living and growing things. There is reassurance in this contact with the other-than-human beings in my life. Reassurance of belonging, of being at home, that fills me with gratitude.
It wasn’t always like this. Years ago, I left my childhood home and my roots in the northeastern United States, in search of a new start. A chance to build my own life, away from the pressures of my troubled family and the turbulence of the U.S. in the 1970’s. My autobiographical book, Passage of the Stork: Delivering the Soul, describes my rootless search for a sense of identity and for a sense of place in the world.
When you leave a place, you take yourself with you. And so, even though leaving home and forging a life in a foreign country was an essential step in my development, it was only a beginning.
An important concept in the universal, collective wisdom of world mythology, is known as The Hero’s Journey. In order to reach adulthood, we must leave the familiar comfort of home, cross the border into an unknown and potentially dangerous world, meet and vanquish demons, find allies, reach our goal, accept our gifts, and bring our gifts home.
The hero’s journey is a powerful metaphor for inner growth and change. We leave our comfort-zone and cross a border into unfamiliar and uncertain territory. We must confront our inner demons: our shadow-side, our fear, anger, and sorrow. And, if we truly embark on this journey, we will receive help: not only from other people but also, if we listen carefully, from the other-than-human inhabitants of our world.
So we will reach our goal and accept the gift of understanding who we are, who we were meant to be. With this gift, we return home. We use this gift to give something back to the world. But the home we return to is not the same place as the home we left. We have changed and therefore home has changed.
And then, there is always the moment that we realize we will, once again, need to give heed to the call to go out and gain an even deeper layer of understanding. Like the rhythm of day and night and the cycle of the seasons, our lives are a continuous cycle of growth and change.
Probably one of the most important things I have learned in the course of my life, is that I am at home in the natural world, no matter where on the globe I happen to be. Whether it’s in the peace of my garden, the marshes of the Dutch Biesbosch, or the wilds of the New England woods, I am connected to the trees, the birds and animals, and the stones in a never-ending dialogue, a dance of listening and responding. As long as I continue to dance with them, I will continue to grow and change. I wish you too, my reader, all the joy of this dance.