“There’s no place like home.”
Dorothy,The Wizard of Oz.
If you’ve been here before, you’ve no doubt noticed I’ve been swimming in the waters of “home” lately.
For me, it’s like a lake that’s both warm and bracing, placid and choppy. And for the most part, I enjoy that duality.
In fact, over the years my inner conversations about this topic have varied dramatically.
One day it’s a casual chat; the next it’s like being back in high school French class, listening to Madame Marie’s words with every fiber of my being, yet still only understanding half of what she was saying.
And from the comments came a tumble of wisdom that greatly enlarges the traditional notion of home. So I made meaning of it by creating a simple word sketch…
As I was writing and coloring the words I couldn’t help but notice their depth and sensitivity.
And in that moment I recognized all the life experiences they represented.
In fact, I had such a sense of the lived experiences of others, both those who commented and those who didn’t, that it momentarily took my breath away.
It was quite remarkable. So much so that it reminded me of something I’d kind of forgotten…
That before we ever get to a complete appreciation of what home means, or what coming home to ourselves means, we have to, in fact, leave home.
And leave home we do, throughout our lives.
Now, I don’t just mean those times when we box up our stuff, pack up the car and hit the road to a new dwelling. No, I mean all those times we leave a role or stage of life, in order to transition to a new one.
Youth to adult. Student to worker. Single to couple. Renter to homeowner. Child-free to parenting. Job to jobless.
First half of life to second half of life. Married to divorced. Parenting to empty nest. Employee to business owner.
Midlife to old age. Working to retirement. Living to dying.
Happy to sad. Sad to happy. Lost to found. Floundering to Grounded. Seeking to finding. Lonely to belonging.
On and on and on it goes.
A continuous cycle of transitions with frequent stops along the way. Not all the same ones for each of us, mind you, but plenty to last a lifetime.
So actually, we leave home a lot. At least in the metaphorical sense.
No wonder we’re surrounded by so many hero’s journey stories, in books and movies, about leaving home, going on an adventure and returning with newfound riches or insights.
As a kid, one of my favorite stories about leaving home and returning was the Wizard of Oz.
The teacher read it to us when I was maybe in third grade. And of course, there was the annual viewing back in the day, when it was on television each year.
No matter how many times I’d seen it, I still plopped myself on the floor in front of the TV with high anticipation.
No matter how many times I’d seen it, I still shuddered when the witch had Dorothy in her clutches, and cheered when Dorothy destroyed her.
No matter how many times I’d seen it, I still cried with abandon when Dorothy said good-bye to her companions.
No matter how many times I’d seen it, I still was amazed and inspired at the end of the movie, when Dorothy claimed her deepest knowing: that she had the power to return home all along, and the ruby slippers would take her there.
As Dorothy clicks her heels three times, she completes the ritual of return.
Turns out she had to leave home to discover what she knew all along. And those ruby slippers represent all that she brings back with her: courage, heart and wisdom.
I recently came upon a lovely quote by Rabbi Rachmiel Tobesman that eloquently describes the quest we all undertake, with each life transition and deep passage, towards wholeness:
“When we first begin to awaken,we realize just how far from home, or our true selves, we really are…
But eventually, like Dorothy and her companions, we come to realize that the strength we seek outside ourselves already exists within us.
We only need to turn inward to discover our courage, heart and wisdom. By focusing…on our deep longing to return…we find our way home.”
We are the home we’re looking for. You are the home you’re looking for. The beginning and the end.
The place where we start and the place we return to.
We complete the cycle, a cycle we enter many times during our lives.
And just as Dorothy learned, each time we conclude the metaphorical ritual of return we bring back riches, our own version of the ruby slippers.
What about your ruby slippers?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. If I added all of my life transitions up with yours, and his, and hers, and all of those who read this, well, we’d have a lot of ruby slippers clicking away. A bounty of courage, wisdom, and heart flying around.
But what is that, really? Just words, it seems to me. So what if we expressed our riches a different way? What if we did it with symbol, image or metaphor?
Mine would be the redwood tree, that ancient giant that lives through storms and fires, and knows how to heal itself. Its roots are somewhat shallow, so it can better change with the times.
Yes, if I was stranded in Oz, I’d hug this tree and whisper, “Take me home.”