When a place becomes home

japan family
A friend of ours noted
that this path
through America-yama Park
and up the hill
by the Foreigners Cemetery,
is the bit of Yokohama
I’ve photographed
most frequently.

She said she wished
she’d done the same
in Bangkok
where they’ve lived
for years.

This path,
my favourite part of Yokohama,
is my walk to school
and home.

I know the afternoon light
on this path
at 4:37
and 5:03
and 6:12.
I’m acquainted with
all its disparate goldens,
have memorized the lengths
of shadows cast
by trees
and tombstones.

I wear this path
on the inside.

In Autumn
we decided to stay
in Japan
another year
and then for more…
for as many as we can.

A declaration
of place-love
as fierce
as we’ve felt.

Unexpectedly
my relationship
with this path
began to shift.

For thirty months
this path
has been inhabited
by changing seasons
of fairy-people
and magic.
On my way home
I would think
“We’re so lucky.
We’re so lucky.”

Now I think,
“Home.”

Although my heart doesn’t leap
every day,
I am happy,
happy that we found
each other
at last.

67 comments

  1. You’ve lived in Japan longer than me now, and I can really relate to the feeling of “We’re so lucky.” I used to think the same of Japan while I was there, and I currently do so now of London. I wonder whether that lucky feeling will ever develop into a feeling of home, or whether that lucky feeling for me is the feeling of home. #tckproblems

    1. Asuka,
      It’s so hard for me to believe that I have now lived in Japan longer than you as I think of you as an expert!

      This thing about home is so tricky, isn’t it? Everywhere I have lived is still part of me… and I still think of those places as home.

      I know that we don’t really use the terms Third Culture Adult but there must be some way of describing the experience of adults who have lived abroad and been changed or shaped by this. Any suggestions?

  2. Love this…your romance with the places around you. I can appreciate the feeling, thinking the same about Ho Chi Minh City this morning, where we have lived for the past 18 months. One foot in one country…five toes on the other heading in all different directions. Found you via Debbie Studwell…

    1. Thanks for stopping by… and for your comment!

      We’ve been to Vietnam just once and we loved it. HCMC and Hoi-An. One of my favourite Vietnam things was watching the motos in traffic. They looked like swans. In Bangkok, the motos are loud and they weave in and out of traffic like an action film. In Vietnam, though, there was an elegance to the way that moto drivers navigated their vehicles. A strange sort of ballet. Really lovely.

      Enjoy your time there!

  3. Beautiful sentiments towards the everyday, and now home. I can totally relate, when a place grabs you enough to contemplate making it part of home, it is as if the place you have seen in so many ways instantly goes from black and white to color. Enjoy your new idea of “home”.

  4. This reminds me of the path I took to go to school when I was young. Regardless of anything that sad or happy that happened on a day, I’ve always felt like home whenever I walked on it. Thanks for reminding me :)

  5. “I wear this path
    on the inside.”

    A lovely statement to follow the descriptive lines before it.

    I’ve always been affected far more by my environment than most due to a high sensitivity and attention to detail and stimuli. Places inhabit me so deeply that I cannot return to the ones that have wounded.

    Happily, the ones with whom I have had a love affair are as easy to recall as my current home. They were more home than this.

    1. Thanks for your lovely comment.
      I completely agree ~ I too am highly sensitive and places definitely inhabit me. People too.
      {In a few cases, unfortunately, places and people haunt me.}

      1. Ha, ha–yes, that is why I have only returned to the city of my birth once, and called it done.

        High sensitivity is like being on heavy drugs all the time, both good drugs and bad. It makes everything psychedelically awesome and/or gut-punchingly awful, depending on context. You spend your free time either explaining this to people or avoiding them out of convenience.

        But I’d like to know how anyone could be an artist any other way.

  6. Lovely poem.. I enjoyed reading this post. Good job. It’s funny how routine can make a place redundant for some and others an awareness settles and it becomes home.

    1. Hi Nerdy Canuck! Thanks for stopping by!

      In general, I am a lover of routine; it makes me feel safe and secure. If I were a more adventurous soul, I can see where these kinds of routines would be soul-zapping… I’m happy that’s not my experience. Living in Japan is, for me, like a warm blanket draped over your knees in a restaurant during the winter. (Some restaurants do that here… amazing!)

      It’s interesting that the WordPress people (to whom I am grateful!) classified this post as “poetry”. I do not. Calling it poetry feels like way too much pressure for regular blog posts.

      As I wrote to a friend a few days ago, I just try to convey a feeling, a memory or an observation in a way that’s accessible to others. Sometimes I use figurative language because I really love it. Sometimes I pay attention to the musicality of the lines… but not always.

      Normally, I write two or three drafts of a post but never more than that. For my purposes, more than three drafts results in tragically over-thought + overwrought writing.

      I call this style “Skinny prose” as a way of staying light-hearted about my writing and paying respect to actual poets.

  7. I stumbled over this and am so grateful for it. I’m an ATCK, a restless expat who has fallen head over heels with a new city and this captures it perfectly – the moment of transition, of guest to resident. For me, it was always getting to go through the “Singapore nationals and permanent residents” line at Changi airport. It took 10 years but I’ve finally found a city that gives me that feeling again and I don’t want to leave.

  8. Enjoyed this. A beautiful photograph that drew me to read your post. I wrestle a lot with what’s ‘home’. I’m so attached to what I consider my real home – of my upbringing, but having just made a second move abroad, I realise just how ‘at home’ I was in the last place I lived, though I really didn’t want to stay there forever! I think the simple things – a view, a favourite cafe, food, and friends are actually the stuff of ‘home’. And, as you say, everywhere you lives remains a part of you, and has a place in your heart. And home’s where the heart is, right?

  9. This is so gorgeous and intricately done, thank you so much for brightening up an otherwise drowsy day for me. :) I appreciate it a lot. Thank you for allowing me as a reader to take a step inside your taught with this beautifully crafted masterpiece. It is painting a vast picture in my mind. :) Thanks

  10. This is pretty beautiful. I’ve been to Yokohama once, It was nice. I’ll be going “home” to Canada after 4 years in Japan this summer, so I’m getting to that stage where everything that feels like “home” to me here, well it may be the last time I see it (like the ume groves in my neighbourhood.)

    1. Hi Janelle.
      Best wishes with your move back to Canada!
      We’ve lived abroad for 15 years ~ in 5 different countries ~ and this is the first time I have felt I could live here for a long time. Perhaps that will change but I’m going to enjoy the feeling while it lasts.
      I do think that there are some cities/countries that are a better fit than others but I suspect I’m also happy in Japan because I’m happy.

  11. Hi, I am new to blogging and have only just started with Reflections for Lent. I spotted your blog because I am just about to write one about “being at home with yourself”. I loved the picture-it looks a place that is full of light and air. And I loved your poem. I can imagine you walking there every day, several times a day. I thought the phrase “I wear this path/on the inside” really captures how much you cherish the path that is “home”.

  12. Beautiful post, that is definitely true.
    You are a open minded person, I think that in the future there is gonna be a lot of people who don´t get attached to one place. The world becomes one, rather than separated countries with the old cultures. Where ever you live, you should feel comfortable and at home.

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