Our visa has been granted; we are on our way to the Big Apple!
The apple I ate today was not especially big, but gently and juicily sweet in taste and a strong red in colour; and although it came from the monastery garden here in Switzerland its name was a peculiarly familiar one: Gloster.
I felt that little 'oooh' of inner delight (do you know that funny twist in your tummy of unexpected emotional response?) when I saw the apple storage box labelled with my very own County Town name: I was born and raised in Gloucestershire (pronounced "glosta-shaia"), that special Cotswold county on the Welsh borders.
I am a proud native of Sheepscombe, having been born at home one late winter's day in the mid sixties. It is an unpretentious little village where you sense just by looking at the way the houses sit that it has burrowed its roots deep deep into the rough south Cotswold hills. And Stroud, where I lived and went to school between the ages of 5 and 18, is a lively get-on-with-the-life-you-wish-for kind of town. My recent "goodbye to Auntie Joan" visit to Stroud became an extremely nostalgic trip, as I walked up and down and around the streets around Nelson House, Nelson Street, remembering homes and friends, school and hospital and church and clubs ... and all and all. Lots of happy tummy-twisty moments.
(My maiden name was Nelson, but we were not Lords and Ladies of the Nelson Estate (no such one exists), rather merely serendipidously househunting when this idiosyncratic, comfortable period family home was on the market. The address was to me unremarkable then, but seems curious now!)
SInce leaving the childhood home that I shared with my parents and three brothers, not including the four years of university study in Reading, I have lived in at least nine places, including a cosy caravan, a spanking new city flat, and in a community house where I shared one bedroom for several months with two other women!
What makes a house into a home and not just a building where we live?
There are some obvious answers to that question, but I have to say that it isn't the most objectively predictable places where I have felt most at home: not necessarily the most comfortable, nor the most affluent, the most beautiful, nor those offering the most freedom of space or time. And it occurs to me that in my lifetime I have invested an awful lot of energy in things that in the end haven't actually given me the most of what I really value.
If I want myself and the people I live with to feel cherished and sheltered in our shared house does it really help to spend time and money worrying about the interior decor when I could instead just be available for the others, or be developing a place of inner spaciousness and restfulness in myself?
If I long for creative expression and to share creative experiences with others does it help if I stay trapped, and therefore impeded, in the worry about what people think of what I produce, how I look, how I sound?
If I wish to have deep and warm relationships with old and new friends does it help to spend time alone, randomly wandering around social media sites and collecting sundry immediately-forgettable knowledge from the internet?
Why do I spend money on stuff that doesn't do me or anyone much good, and why spend time doing things that don't satisfy?
But hey, enough of the heart-searching.
Hang on, though, no!
"Home is where the heart is": perhaps this is my key. If I want where I live in New York to be really a home, perhaps I have to make my biggest investments not in nest-feathering but in some heart issues.
And I think I want and need this sort of habitat: where I know who I am, who I belong to and who I belong with, where I can love and be loved; and with this, space and grace for creative self-expression. Where I pay attention to simple and ordinary things, perhaps helped by a rhythm of daily practices, as well as enjoying the special occasions when the privilege arises. And, where I can learn to be open-hearted with a ready 'yes' to whoever and whatever comes my way, as well as enough discernment and courage to say 'no' when enough is enough, both of which have to do with blithe spontaneity (and that's another corker of a word: blithe. When did you last have the pleasure of that one on your tongue?).
Just today's suggestions. If you want to know how Im getting on you will have to come and visit us at our new address, at our new home. Or you could ask ...
Post script: sometimes our fancy ideas catch us out, and I've been caught. Ha, that will keep me laughing at myself! Namely: the Gloster apple has no connection with my childhood blah-blah homeland whatsoever. Read its vital statistics (as offered on orangepippin.com) and you will see:
Gloster Apple Species: Malus comestica
Parentage: Weisser Winterglockenapfel x Richared Delicious
Originates from: Germany
Developed by: Fruit Research Station, Jork, Hamburg
Orange Pippin cultivar ID: 1709. UK National Fruit Collection accession: 1968-067