Last week, I traveled to Bellingham, Washington, to see my grandmother.
As we drove the last stretch of I-5 that carves into the foothills bordering Lake Whatcom, my mind was filled with a hum that sounded like homehomehomehomehome.
I’ve never lived in Bellingham, but it was home to both sets of grandparents, assorted cousins, and loads of family lore. The happiest days of my childhood were spent there, and I know it felt like homehomehome because it is the place I have felt most safe, most free, most me. As a young adult venturing out on my own, Bellingham was my safety net. My other grandmother’s house caught more than one of my cousins during a tumble, and I always knew I had a place to go if I really needed it.
That grandmother’s house was sold the year I was pregnant with my twins, and the grandmother I was visiting isn’t doing well. Although she’s still in her home, she’s not in a place to have company. Cane and I stayed in a lovely, funky little house we found through Airbnb, close to Bellingham Bay, near the house that has been sold. Through the night, I could hear the sounds I heard when I slept there as a young girl, the trains’ whistles and gulls’ cries. They, too, sounded like homehomehome.
Bellingham has changed since the years it was a regular part of my life. It feels much smaller, as places from childhood tend to do. But it was still homehomehome, and although I didn’t cry when our car moved again through the foothills, this time heading south, I felt heavy inside.
Too heavy to cry. I have lived away from the Sound and my people for more than 25 years, and I want to go home.
Until last fall, our house in Oregon felt like home to me, but it really doesn’t any more. It is just a house now, one my children will be leaving within the next 6 months. I am feeling untethered, and I am asking, again, questions I feel I should have answered long ago.
And so, this is why I am mucking about with words about home.
I can’t say much about my process. I spent more time than I’d like to admit over last week’s spring break just moving strips of words around on a piece of green paper, not getting anywhere. I am not sure why I decided to make houses out of pieces of maps, but I did.
To make the houses I first sketched some house shapes, and then I looked at some images of house drawings. (Do a Google image search for “house graphic vector” if you’re in need of house drawings to help you see the shapes of houses.) Then I just started cutting out boxes and triangles and putting houses together. I did that for a day or two and left the words alone.
Then when I returned to the words, I realized I needed the bit about looking on a map–because the houses are made of maps. I decided to take out anything having to do with building/creating a home.
During yesterday’s early-morning, 4th day of migraine insomnia-fest, I realized that, perhaps, the open space needed to curve on the page the way Bellingham Bay curves into the town. And that I definitely need the water words. I might need to think more about water.
At any rate, this is where I am now.
I’m not that thrilled with this.
I want the houses to look differently. As I’ve been driving about the past two days, I’ve been seeing the shapes of houses. I think these houses may be just practice houses. I know the words aren’t right, either.
This is pretty raw, all right. Just like my feelings these days. We’ll have to wait and see what comes of any of it.