This Place We Call Home

On June 20, 1782 the Bald Eagle was chosen as the emblem of the United States of America to symbolize all our nation stood for – long life, great strength and absolute freedom.  Today this majestic creature continues to stand for what we proud Americans have always believed- our country is the home of the free.

Something happened though to put a kink in our belief system about America.  The events of September 11, 2001 gave all of us living in America a shocking wake up call.  Home no longer felt as secure.

Out of nowhere planes crashed into The Twin Towers  of the World Trade Center in New York, The Pentagon and the Pennsylvania countryside killing many Americans, all in the name of politics.

I believe that those that perished made their way to a better home.  Those left to pick up the pieces, the grieving families and friends of those that died had to begin to redefine what “Home” means.  I suspect some have worked through much of the grief and have a renewed sense of what matters in life and cherish each and every moment.  But, others I feel sure are still grappling with the process.

I was shocked on September 2001 just as everyone was.  As I mentioned in my post, Houseless Not Homeless, I was in Richmond, VA doing some work at my brother, Don’s house.  Richmond is but a few hours from Washington, DC and that in and of itself was eerie.  But, the sounds of silence were deafening when we walked outside that day- no planes in the sky anywhere.  Period.  I was scared to death and stunned that our country had fallen prey to such evil.  I, like most Americans was used to things like this happening on the soil of other countries- not ours.  In a matter of minutes I had a feeling of vulnerability, insecurity and simple gut wrenching fear.  Most of us did.

But, I had already come to know this fear of losing my sense of home well.  Before September 11th I had lived with it for many, many years.

Let me explain…

Losing the sense of home

Bald eagle perched in tree

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

In the late 1990’s I became a statistic of divorce.  Married almost twenty years and with three kids, my world unraveled in what felt like a skinny second.  Everything changed.  I mean everything.  What happened?  More than a divorce, I lost my family unit.  That was the most important thing to me in the world.  It didn’t matter where I lived, what I was doing, or what I was facing, when my family unit was in tact I felt safe.   Home for me had always been defined as my family and now my safety net was gone.

In losing this safety net I lost what grounded me.  In fact, up until just a couple of years ago I carried a pit in my stomach at all times.  I can only describe it as a pit of fear –  fear of the unknown.  You see, my world had been uprooted and I couldn’t figure out how to reconnect and secure it again.  At the same time that I carried the pit in my stomach, I was plagued with almost nightly dreams that took place in the last house I lived in with my complete family.  Oddly enough, the dreams constantly varied in the details of what was happening but, the house was always the same -  the one in a neighborhood called Giverny in Charlotte, NC – the place I called home.  In some dreams I was putting new curtains up, others I was working in the yard planting flowers and still others I was sitting with friends on the front steps. Regardless of the dream situation, it was clear to me time after time that through these dreams I was processing a redefining of “Home”.  Hence, the new decorating and landscaping in my dreams!  Psychologically, I took from these constant dreams that I now needed to redefine what home meant to me.  I needed to regain the safety and security I had lost.

Then, out of nowhere came a wake up call.  A chance encounter in December of 2006 (oddly enough, approximately ten years after my marital issues arose)  forced me to reckon with my past and all I had lost.  Though the ensuing years have been full of ugliness, drama and consequences I have emerged on the other side of this encounter more centered, fulfilled and blissful than I ever could imagine.  In the process, I learned where “Home” really is – in my heart and soul.  With it there, I have no chance of disconnecting from it ever again.

Now I am in the refining “Home” phase. How exhilarating!

Home’s rightful place is in the heart

What I learned was something I need to pass on.  I learned that I had inaccurately defined home all those years.  I had put the meaning of home outside myself.  It should have been centered in me- smack  dab in my heart and soul.  If I had first had it there, I could have been better prepared for losing my family structure.

Remember my article, Houseless Not Homeless?  Remember how Kenny never lost his sense of home because all the while, even living in his red truck home was in his heart?  Kenny understood better than anyone I have ever met the truth about where home needs to reside.

Bald eagle watching nest

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

A few weeks ago by sheer coincidence (and I really don’t believe in coincidences) I learned about a tragic event that had occurred in the house David and I are renting.  Oddly enough, I learned about this event two days before my post, “What Makes A House A Home was published.  In the article I mention my landlord and her near obsession with this house.  In fact, I talk about how it is her “house” but, it is my “home”.  I assumed she was obsessed with the house because she had wanted to sell it and was worried about “renters” living in it. Oh my gosh, was I ever humbled with news of what had happened here.  It just goes to show you, assumptions are only that- assumptions.  The truth was she absolutely positively lost her meaning of home one tragic evening here in this house.   Dear God, no  wonder she is so attached to it.  I only hope she someday redefines home and I hope this place called “Home”  moves into her heart.  It is her only chance to live again.

Baby bald eagle

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

Which leads me back to defining what home is.  I do not for a second believe that I have experienced the worst of the worst in losing my sense of home.  Never have I been without shelter (like so many, many people), never have I been forced from my house (through acts of evil) and never have I faced horrific living conditions (such as concentration camps, relocation camps, political prisons).  I cannot imagine what levels of strength it would take to rise up after an experience such as one of these and try to find home again.  Nonetheless, up until a few years ago my life was missing the wholeness I had once had when my family was intact.  So, I looked inside myself and found it again.

Wake up America

My chance encounter in 2006 was my wake up call to redefining home and putting it in its rightful place- my heart.

Kenny has it in his heart and I pray that my landlord finds a way to put it in her’s as well.

All of us can take adversity, trauma and tragedy to create the balance in our lives we so desperately need.  I believe it begins in the home.

Fly like an eagle

Photo credit: Susan Muehl

On a larger scale, this is what we Americans have had to do as a Nation after the horrible events of September 11, 2001.  Every single one of us has had to redefine what home here in the United States means.  This place called home cannot live outside of us.  No one can create it for us or provide it for us.  It must come from within.  The truth of the matter is that if we have accurately redefined “Home” we are better for it.  We smile bigger smiles, laugh deeper laughs and love with abandon.  For if we put “Home” in our hearts, nothing but love can burst forth.

I urge each of you to embrace the shift that September 11, 2001 and now its 10th anniversary has given us the opportunity to make.  Shift your priorities, shift your values and shift your attitudes to a more basic level of love.  As the country music duo, “Big and Rich” urged the audience to do the other night in concert at Naperville’s Last Fling, get on board the Love Train.

Don’t be left behind at the station.

When you get right down to it, love is everything.  And remember, everything begins in the home.

Love with abandon…

NOTE:  Nature Photographer, Susan Muehl has been capturing the beauty of these magnificent bald eagles throughout the last two years at a lake near her home, Lake Accotink Park in Springfield VA.  They gave birth to twins this spring – to life and living in the U.S.A.!