When the plane touched down at Gardemoen, Oslo’s main airport, on April 26, I had lived in the USA for 27 of the 29 preceding years. I grew up in Botswana, meaning that I’ve lived more than ten years each in, not just three countries, but three continents. Feeling “at home”, or even knowing what “home” is, has been elusive, and the concepts have meant different things at different times.
What struck me during my first weeks in Oslo was that the birch trees were smaller and more slender than their North American counterparts, among which I had lived more recently. The fact that there were tiny white and blue anemones among the birch trees was comforting to my eyes. My taste buds relished the absence of sweetness. Breakfast is savory, not sweet. Bread is nutty, not sweet. The air is drier, the birdsong more quiet. Human voices are softer, and news items are more informative, less alarmist, even when the subject matter is a pandemic or escalating violence in the Middle East. Humor is a little more wicked, both at one’s own and others’ expense.
Goldilocks found that Papa Bear’s chair was too big and hard for her liking. Mama Bear’s chair was too soft and pillowy for Goldilocks’ taste, but Goldilocks discovered that though the bear’s home was not hers, Baby Bear’s bed was none-the-less a comforting Just Right experience for her. She was comfortable enough to fall asleep in Baby Bear’s bed. Perhaps it was only a device to teach us not to invade somebody else’s house, eat their food, and break their furniture. All of these are, of course, outrageous acts during a pandemic!
But I digress. Had this fairy tale intended to teach the lesson I’m talking about, Goldilocks would have come back when the bears were at home, been invited in, and then had the legitimate discovery that some like their chairs to be big and firm, some prefer them soft and pillowy, and that even if you can’t be in your own home, there are places where chairs, porridge, and beds can feel Just Right. Or at least comfortable enough to be able to sleep well at night.
If we live as Jesus taught, we know that we won’t feel at Home in any country, and our family is all who, like us, commit to living according to the priorities and values that know no national, religious, or ethnic boundaries. We are just sojourners on earth.
Queries for further reflection:
Where, when, or with whom have you felt “at home”? What makes you feel “at home”? Is it possible – or even desirable – to feel at home while inhabiting your human body?