Saturday, October 30, 2010

I Have How Many Weeks Left? (Or, Why I Found Myself Wanting to Cry as I Walked Home from Eastern Market)

I was walking back from the hubbub of Eastern Market this morning with my friend Mandie, reveling in the fall colors and the 50 degree sunshine my New England body has been craving for the whole month of October, and it hit me suddenly: my time in DC is almost over. I arrived here in August with a midge on the airplane, and my fears tucked safely in my pockets. I arrived thinking that 14 weeks would be unimaginably long. I arrived without ever having lived in a city, full of excitement and trepidation...

And here I am, 8 weeks in, realizing that I love living in this city. Eastern Market was bustling today, people in their fuzzy scarves and hats, clutching cups of warm cider from Port City Java or tea from Peregrine Espresso, taste testing Asian pears and honeycrisp apples. When I turned around, there were little booths of handmade rose gold earrings, hand-roasted coffee, scarves and headbands, lining the street like the marché in Aix-en-Provençe. I sat in the corner of Port City Java, highlighter in hand, my skinny grey jeans and converse sneakers tucked under my chair, watching as a 40 year old woman in a pink leotard and bunny ears ordered a double tall skim cappuccino, as a random group of people dressed as pirates wandered through the food stalls, and as a group of girls shared scones and muffins.

I love walking on the cobbled brick of 8th St and feeling the wind on my face. And as I walked back, I felt like crying, because I am not at all sure how I will deal with the lack of Washington, DC in my life when December 11 arrives. Will I be lost in the suburbs of the North Shore? Will I feel at home anymore in my old red colonial house, or will I have come home only to be a stranger in two places instead of one?

Why do we travel? It complicates everything. I keep discovering places that feel like home: the wild moors of Devon, England, the bright lavenders and poppies of southern France, the Musée d'Orsay and the café near Notre Dame where Tatiana and I first discovered our love of café au lait, the sweet tea and po' boys of New Orleans, the Jubliee Center in downtown Montgomery... there are too many places to name, but my journey here has exacerbated this tendency to find "home" in the least expected cities.

I have always thought of myself as a rooted person. You know the old debates about roots versus wings? Are you a grounded person or a free spirit? Do you want to fly free or be anchored to earth? And to those questions I've always answered "Roots; grounded; being anchored." And I thought that it meant I knew that home was home, and away was away, and when I went away I would always be glad to come home.

But being here has changed my definition of home. I no longer think of it as my red colonial house on Wethersfield St; I no longer think of it as my small college or my beloved high school or even the North Shore of Massachusetts. Home is now also 8th St, the D6 bus, Union Station, Port City Java, the Starbucks on 16th and K, the Busboys & Poets on 14th and V, the Anthropologie I can't afford in Georgetown, the view of the Lincoln, the National Gallery of Art... home is in all these things, is all these things. I don't know when it happened, or how, but I know that I will be homesick for Washington when I leave.

Maybe we travel to know what we love in the place we left behind us. Maybe we travel because God has made a big wide world and wants us to enjoy it. Maybe we travel because it helps us find echoes of ourselves in unexpected places. I hope that I continue to travel for all these reasons, but most importantly I hope I continue to travel to change the meaning of home. I hope that I keep my roots, but that they begin to grow out beneath me to encompass the many places I have felt at home. I want to be at home in many places. Maybe lamenting at the prospect of leaving DC in a scant six weeks is the place to begin.

Thank you for traveling with me, readers. It has been wonderful to share this journey with you.



  1. I am laughing that we both thought of this concept of "home" today. How similar we think, dear friend. Perhaps you are a person who travels not as a tourist, but as a pilgrim - always on their way toward home.

  2. i LOVED this post hilary - you word things SO well. thanks for writing :)


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