Sunday, September 20, 2015

Permanent Address

"Home Sweet Home"
- At the Desert Retreat House -

Our local paper this morning ran a story with some statistics about the population of folks like me who live in this “Desert Valley” region of Southern California. Unlike almost any other place in the country almost no one who lives here was actually born here and very few of us have lived here all our lives.

Many have migrated here to escape the harsh winters of the east coast or moved down here from Canada; lots of the residents of this region own or rent other homes and only come out here when the desert weather isn’t too brutally hot; still others are retired and travel a good deal while maintaining a residence here as their “home base.” 

I’ve thought a bit about that article and concluded that I very much like living in a region with so many “transient” neighbors. It helps me put some perspective on the impermanent nature of life and reminds me that all of us are always on a journey.

From time to time I find that I am required to fill out various forms that ask me for my “permanent address.” Sometimes, when I am in a more playful mood, I am tempted to respond: “none.”

In fact even if we were born in a particular place and have lived in the same house for all our lives, none of us ever has a permanent address.

I am reminded of a wisdom saying from Buddhist monk and teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh:

With every step I arrive at my destination.
Home is where your feet are.

There are many places I call “home.” I still think of my birthplace in Buffalo, New York as “home,” and since we spent so many years living in Central New York, that’s also home for me. We’ve also been out here in California for over ten years now and so California is our home and this Desert Retreat House where we now reside is “home base,” but none of these places is my “permanent address.”

The Buddhists wisely teach that all life is impermanent - from moment to moment everything changes, always becoming something else, and our time on earth eventually runs out for us all.  We find our deepest peace and greatest joy when we are able to embrace the place where we stand in the moment because life always happens in the moment.

I truly believe that “home is where your feet are.” And so I am always at home and yet always on a journey—such is the nature of life.

Episcopal priest and author Barbara Brown Taylor puts it this way:

Most of us spend so much time thinking about
where we have been or where we are supposed to go
that we have a hard time recognizing where we actually are.
When someone asks us where we want to be in our lives,
the last thing that occurs to us is to look down at our feet and say,
‘Here, I guess, since this is where I am.’

If I am feeling playful the next time I am asked to give my “permanent address” maybe I’ll respond: Here I guess, since this is where I am.

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