the chambered nautilus that is home…
like some sort of sea squiggler slithering into my coiled shell, my safe place, nestled among the coral and seaweed, down deep where the waters are dark, are still, i made my way home last night.
in deep-dark murky midnight black, i put one wobbly foot in front of the other (i’d been three hours in the passenger seat), and crept along the meandering brick walk, past the gnarled crabapple fingers that don’t take kindly to passersby (more often than not, they reach out to make you bleed, or snatch the earring clear off your lobe), past the nodding anemones (now naked of bloom), the anemones i’ve not yet tidily clipped, not tucked into bed for their long winter’s slumber.
eons earlier yesterday, when we’d headed out for the very long day (driving one sweet boy to a plane at the airport, motoring across the state line to a charmed bookstore in the dairy state’s capital city, reading and talking, then turning ’round to come home, all in one day), i’d left the back lights on, the ones that cast their soft molasses glow on the steps so i’m less apt to tumble, the glow i always can spot from the alley, calling me home, beacon through fog.
fumbling with keys, with too many somethings stacked in my arms, i turned the brass in the lock, and stepped inside, safe inside. i was home. finally home.
i’d been waiting for that moment — for that deep sigh of “at last” — for what felt like weeks and weeks. and i couldn’t wait to slither back into all that’s familiar, that’s home: the old jammies with holes. the robe that should have been tossed a few tatters ago. the creak in the stairs as i come round the bend, and plant my sole on the arthritic plank, the one that complains every time.
not ready to sleep, i popped a few kernels, enough to fill a bowl. i drank in the tick and the tock of the old grandfather’s clock, the one sighing the midnight hour. i plonked myself down at the old scratched maple table. and i breathed. deep breathed.
and this morning, after the cat rudely awoke me with the sound of his retching at 3 bells past midnight, i tossed and i turned till i finally surrendered. i arose, took a hot shower (the very best balm for a night of few sleeps), slid into my oldest stretchiest muck-about pants, and, just before 5, i tiptoed down the stairs, the ones i know by heart.
even the simple act of coffee poured into a mug — the mug i love best, a chipped old vessel, one that’s red and dimpled with wee tiny white hearts, one that soothes me like no other when cupped in my palms — it’s medicinal in its powers to quell.
and it’s all a part of the rhythm, the song, that cues up our deepest contentment.
it’s this compendium of simplicities, one pure familiarity strung next to another, that serves to weave and re-weave the womb, the nest, the cradle that rocks us back to equilibrium.
we are, some of us, creatures of habit, of the familiar. we set out to upholster our every day in the somethings rubbed smooth from use and re-use. the jeans with holes in the knees. the blanket long ago snagged. the particular chair where our bum snuggles deepest.
oh, i know there are those who live for the new, the exotic, the never-before. and i don’t mind a dash of surprise, eccentricity.
but give me my druthers and i’ll reach for the old, the weathered, the worn through with love upon love. the dog-eared till tender.
even, apparently, in matters of heart-pounding, head-swirling lifelong attraction. upon meeting the man i would eventually marry, my mother heaped upon him the highest praise in her book, declaring him “an old shoe,” the sort who fits like a glove, who knows your rises and planes and sidles up seamlessly. the sort with no pretense. one utterly at home in holey-soled loafers and seersucker shorts with sagging-down hem (his apparel of choice for that maiden encounter with the one who would become his mother-in-law). one who’d not mind a lifetime of pre-wrinkled shirts, warmed-over stews, and a station wagon too often mistaken for heirloom.
and right in here, you see, i’m hungry for all that anchors me, tucks me in to the nooks and the crannies of my own chambered nautilus.
of late, i’ve been out on a bit of a voyage through unfamiliar waters (it’s that wee little book, the time-slowing tome, birthed five short weeks ago). i’ve been trolling farther from home, and in ways a tad beyond my comfort zone.
why, just the other eve, i found myself talking quite plainly — in front of however umpteen many households were tuned to a particular chicago public television channel — about something i’ve not talked about to seven-eighths of my dearest friends, a long ago mystical something, my so-called “miracle,” one that unfolded in the upstairs chapel of a faraway convent when i was all of 16 (see page 35 of said book, if you’re now curious). but there i was, on a sound stage, with cameras rolling, and the words of my heart and my soul being cast across airwaves, scattered like so many seedlings through miles and miles of midwestern heartland. egad.
no wonder i needed my shaggy old pj’s. and my banged-up coffee cup besides. it’s rather a miracle that i’m not wadded up in tattered blankets, burrowing deep beneath some coffee-stained couch pillows.
thank goodness the calendar for a whole stretch of days holds nothing more drastic than rising from bed, and tumbling to sleep. i’ve come at last to a somnolent spell. and i need it.
a home body, a comfort seeker like me, must return to the roost. must deep breathe the old and familiar. it’s in sinking into the rhythms we know best that we are freed to be our unfettered whole. we needn’t peek in the mirror. needn’t quake at the sound of our own voice, echoing clear across a room.
we are home. we are where we belong. we are unadulterated glory in the eyes of the only one who truly sees us, the one who set sublimest design upon us, back at the essential beginning.
when we’re home, when we’re safe in the confines of the golden spiral, the chambered nautilus, that’s when we reclaim our moorings, quiet the shaky insides.
it’s how we guzzle the holy, how we refill the vessel so we’ve got what it takes to return to the seas and conquer new vistas.
dear chair friends, writing on three hours of sleep is not very smart. so please forgive weak spots and tangles above. i’ve got a quiet spell for the next couple weeks, and a boy coming home in less than a week for the very best holiday. i’ll restock the larder. i’ll deep breathe the beautiful. and be ready to roll again.
in the meantime, do tell, what is it you do to anchor your soul, and set your wings back to soaring?
Barbara, it was a pleasure meeting you at Mystery to Me Books last night. Thank you for coming to Madison – already I am a fan of your book and blog.
bless your heart, peggy. you have no idea how it warms my soul. i LOVED motoring up to madison. it was balm for my heart……thank YOU for coming out on a cold november’s night….
For me, and I don’t do it near enough, is to get out among trees. Then, on a day like today, come back in and make a roaring fire in the fireplace. (Irish coffee optional!) So glad it went well in Madison, but then again why wouldn’t it?
i love that you precisely cite trees as the restorative thing. and the roaring fire. be still my woodsy fire-y heart. we are such kindred spirits. i’m going to go find myself a tree. a stand of trees. we should take road trip to madison. this book shop is so charmed. i am in love with the idea of stringing together a trip to all the cool indie book stores in the heartland. i’ve heard of fathers and sons who make a pilgrimage to all america’s ball parks. sisters should do book shops with particular charms……
Great idea! I bet there are more such stores than we might think.
I just realized that my restorative act involves communing with something only to chop it down and burn it!
Coming home…..you have put into words the very heart of it. I felt myself sinking deeper into my preferred corner of the couch as I read something so very familiar but often taken for granted.
Your wonderful piece on PBS was where I found you. I was partially listening to the show while I was busy doing other things. You radiated such warmth in my living room! I so enjoyed hearing about your encounter with the divine in the convent and have your book on my Christmas wish list.
My way of refueling has always been through solitude in nature. Growing up, one of eight siblings I learned early on how to step aside to breathe.
Welcome home and enjoy the upcoming holiday of grateful ness.
bless your heart. tis the miracle of television, non? that invisible signals could waft through the air and pop out of a screen, and kindred spirits find each other. nature is very much at the heart of the divine here at the table. welcome to the table. and thanks for pulling up a chair, and plopping right down. we love good company here…..
A lovely entry — and, for me, coming home to snuggly well-worn clothes, my comfy corner couch spot and a good book always smooths whatever ruffles my spirit has endured in my away time. That is the same tonic that I have relied on for more than six decades. Your essay made me even more grateful for that respite–thank you!
bless you, kindred comfort spirit. just this morning i partook of my best tonic of all: stepping outside in the dark just before dawn, under the star-stitched dome. the sliver of moon, the bright beacon of jupiter, and perhaps my favorite constellation, little bear (my little one’s nickname). i’m never quite sure what i’m looking at, but i drink it all in none the same. and in feeling so small, i am lifted and carried…..and ready to go grab my hot mug of coffee!!!
here’s a handy guide to the november night sky. just found out a meteor shower is coming for my mama’s birthday on monday…http://www.space.com/16149-night-sky.html
Loved your beautiful post! Your words flow like poetry, calming and centering me.
So glad I found you! Looking forward to purchasing your book!
bless you. thank you….delighted you found them centering. some days writing is harder than others, and i always feel awful when i’m not sure the essence came through. but in the practice of anything we take the rhythms as they come: some days, flow; some days, stumble stumble stumble……
From one ‘nesty girl’ to another – click the heels of those ruby slippers darlin’ … there’s no place like home. xox
How ironic … autocorrect changed my ‘pjv’ to pjs … as I sit in my pjs in my most favorite place of all, home.
PJs/V! that is hilarious!!! shall we re-anoint you pjs? autocorrect — for a rule breaker like me, especially — is the mosquito that won’t go away. it’s always messing me up, and too often i don’t see what it decided to do till the send button is hit and the bloop is on its way.
love you, honey. xoxo
Even writing on little shut-eye, you say it perfectly. So glad Madison went well. Dorothy had it right when she said, “There’s no place like home.” I will spend the next few days with my sisters, but after two sleeps, much as I love them, I will be very ready to be home again. Enjoy your home time! xoxo
thanks, my beautiful. hope you are having a glorious snowy morn with those sisters. in the white inn on the hill? sounds heavenly….oh, to have sister sisters! what a blessing!!
…so admiring your openness in writing but also the closing – to invite – to hide – to unfold?
family life was a bit stormy the last few years….dh and i were the anchors…deep, down, we managed a steadfastness in each other for the others…i’m ready to set wings back, feel the sun on my face, the wind in my hair…
and may your flight take you soaring, and may the vistas be radiant…
Thanks for words that comfort my soul. I, too, find a calmness that restores me when I curl up in my home nest … after being out and about … when sadness grips me … or as I try to be supportive of those I love during loss or stressful times. Or even after an afternoon of bumping elbows with other shoppers! Give me herb tea, a cozy blanket, and a good book.
sweet! we are going to need a mighty long couch, and vats of tea for all of us chambered nautili….
“…hungry for all that anchors me, tucks me in to the nooks and the crannies of my own chambered nautilus…when we’re home, when we’re safe in the confines of the golden spiral, the chambered nautilus, that’s when we reclaim our moorings, quiet the shaky insides.”
Yes! This is perfect me. My nooks and crannies are filled with cookery and needlework and lovely books while trees and wind and rain and snow and stars surround.
I’m so glad I found my way here, Barbara.
and we, too, are glad you found your way to this old table. with plenty of chairs. your nooks and crannies sound heavenly….
Another wonderful read… I just wanted to say Happy Thanksgiving and hope you have wonderful family time with your family together. 🙂
you too, sweetheart. happy blessed AND bountiful thanksgiving to you. big big hug. xoxox