How to Find Home Without Looking for It

It has been (approximately) one year since my last blog post, which seems like the perfect time to write another one. 

I extend the warmest of welcome-backs to all seven-ish people who actually read this blog. 

Grab yourself a cup of something and find a comfortable, seated position. 

We have so much catching up to do.

First of all, I want to give a big shout out to myself for creating this space in the digital ethers wherein I get to say whatever I want. Really great move on my part. Well done, Maggie. It’s nice to have this space to come back to when Instagram tells me I’ve exceeded the word limit for a post. 

Other first of all, holy shit you guys- I did it. Like, I did all the things I said I was going to do, and then some. I went on a 10,000 mile road trip around the east side of the States, got on an airplane and flew across the ocean, climbed some mountains, temporarily moved to a different country (New Zealand), and accidentally, but not regrettably, fell in love, quickly and honestly and in a strange and unexpected way that I’ll write about some other day. 

Currently, I am writing this on the bed in the room my lover and I rent out in a suburban area of Queenstown in New Zealand. Yes, New Zealand is as beautiful as any travel brochure claims it to be and yes, there are alot of sheep here. No, we’re not going to throw another shrimp on the barbie- that’s Australia. Yes, New Zealand is a different country. No, I haven’t gone to Hobbiton and I never will. Why?! Because it’s expensive and I don’t care about Lord of the Rings as evidenced by the fact that I’ve never made it through even one of the movies without falling asleep- but I will say that I’ve seen enough of the first one to have an opinion about Orlando Bloom dressed as an elf and the review is overwhelmingly positive. Moving on.

I miss home and I love that feeling and I want to talk about why.

Little Elk Creek, Black Hills, South Dakota

When TJ and I left for our roadtrip in August 2019, we thought being on the road- unemployed and free to wake up and do whatever we wanted- would give us the time to write and sing and make music. But what we forgot, or more than likely had simply never had the opportunity to realize, is that living takes up so much space when you’re forced to be conscious of the act. 

Sure we were free to wake up and do whatever we wanted, but first we had to figure out where we were going to sleep (preferably for free/cheap but also safe/clean), eat (food deserts are very real, especially in the desert) pee (which I have to do every 5 minutes) and get gas. Navigating through and around giant, dangerous summer storm systems in Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico in particular, cost us time and energy that we didn’t plan for because, well, we couldn’t.

But we also brought too many things, the car was too full, and finding what we needed when we needed it cost us even more precious, precious time. This might not seem like a big deal, but the true value of time, when you’ve been on the road for ten hours and you can’t imagine being in the car for one more minute, becomes glaringly obvious. Things start to feel heavy and rushed. Five more minutes feels like three hours and you just want to find that goddamn bag of overpriced beef jerky you bought at the last gas station because you’re hungry and there’s nowhere to eat and you’re sure you stashed it somewhere behind the passenger seat but, oh look, here’s a half-empty bag of stale tortilla chips that will have to do for now. 

But while I didn’t have time to write, I also had much less to say than I thought I would; sometimes words just don’t mean as much as we think they will or should; sometimes a sunrise is just a pretty thing to look at. 

I posted the pictures. I’ve seen sunrises and sunsets and mountains and rivers and oceans and valleys and lakes- but I was simply too busy living to worry about what it all meant, and once I accepted that, once I got over the fear of missing out on some kind of meaning I was supposed to be getting out of every moment, I was able to experience more moments. By allowing the beautiful things I was experiencing to simply exist, for free, no strings attached, incidentally created a space for meaning to seep in all on its own.

Waking up every day and seeing things I had never seen before was a beautiful gift that added weight to places I had already known: A ring of pines in the backyard of my childhood home, the frozen shoreline of Lake Michigan in the winter, the view of the Black Hills from my balcony at the first apartment building I rented by myself, the herby-earthy-essential-oils scent of the food co-op I used to shop at, TJ’s old apartment where he kissed me for the first time, the bar in Deadwood where I officially met him for the first time, the tavern in Spearfish where I played at an open mic for the first time, every single trail I’ve hiked in South Dakota, watching the sunrise from the top of Black Elk peak with friends, watching the sunset from the top of Flag Mountain, alone, a little lost, crying a bit but mostly hopeful and the front porch of the house I sold, where I left two relationships and learned how to move through the world on my own. 

It took 10,000 miles for me to realize I don’t have to go searching for meaning. It’s right here, in the act of living. 

About 48 hours before our road trip in the States
Flanagan’s, Spearfish, SD, August 2019

Also, I’m not entirely convinced that the “meaning of life” is really what we’re all scrambling about trying to find anyway. 

After living through so many different places in a short amount of time, I feel pretty certain that what we’re all scrambling about trying to find is a way home. 

I think it’s mostly true that home is wherever your people are, being surrounded by family and friends and friends who are family. But that’s also not true at all. I feel at home when I visit my friends and family back in Illinois and Michigan and Wisconsin, but while I feel at home with those people in those places, those places don’t feel like home. I’m not content enough there to create routines, to feel rooted. I think that home is inherently connected to place. No matter how meaningful certain relationships are to me, I could never consider certain places to be home, regardless of who was there. I will always say I am “going home” when I visit Illinois, and I mean it. But I’m not truly home until I’m back in the Black Hills. 

Anyway, my point is that Dorothy was spot fuckin’ on. There really is no place like home.

While standing on mountains here in New Zealand, taking in some of the most beautiful bucket-list-worthy-destination-travel-views, I’ve turned to TJ and said, “I miss South Dakota.” 

Black Elk Peak, Black Hills, South Dakota, April 2019

Home is not just a place and the people in it. 

Home is a feeling and you’ll know it when you get there. 

I wish I could give a clearer explanation, but that’s the best I can do. You have to go out and find Home for yourself, man. 

Also, all of this bullshit about finding home and blah blah blah doesn’t mean I plan on staying in one place forever. It’s just nice to know where my one place is, to have a spot on the map I can point to and say, “That one.” Knowing I have a place to move away from makes the leaving less scary because I know there is always a place to move back to. 

Speaking of moving, several months ago TJ’s friend jokingly asked him to move to Wisconsin, to which he replied while pointing at me, “I’m going wherever she’s going.”

Mt. Roosevelt, Black Hills, South Dakota, June 13, 2019

And that sentiment, my friends, is the most disgustingly beautiful gift I will ever receive because TJ knows full well that I’m not exactly sure where I’m going, but knowing he wants to be wherever that is makes finding that place feel possible, and that is just another thing that feels like home to me.

So maybe you think this is all a bunch of bullshit. I don’t particularly care. I just needed to write about some things that my heart has been dragging around. (Again, nice job starting this blog, Maggie. Good on ya.)

Maybe for you, home really is a place or a person. Maybe you feel I’ve complicated a simple concept or that I’ve been embarrassingly sentimental throughout this entire post, in which case I agree with you but here you are still reading this so the joke is definitely not on me.

Really, though. Whatever or whoever or wherever Home is to you, I hope you find it and I hope you find the courage to leave it once in a while. 

As for me, I’m currently just trying my best to stay aware of my own luck. What a ridiculous amount of privilege I’ve been given to not only have a place to come home to, but to finally know what it means when I get there. 

Love always,

and especially right now,

Saint Margaret

Blue Door Bar, Arrowtown, Otago, New Zealand, last night