Literary Links: Our Many Homes

2020 has been the Year of Staying at Home, and with the cold, grey weather approaching, we are now entering the usual season of staying at home. Spending so much time at home comes with a unique bundle of blessings and hardships for everyone. As someone who has spent most of her adult life jumping around between cities, states and apartments, I cannot pretend to be an expert on committing to a place. My transience has taught me one thing, though: home is more than just your apartment. Your home is also the larger spaces you inhabit: your town, your planet. And the more personal ones: your body and your mind. Given that many of these places are inescapable, it’s a good idea to make peace with, and even learn to love, all of the things that make up your home. Cover of This is Where You Belong

What makes a place feel like home? Melody Warnick explores this idea (called “place attachment”) in “This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live” (Viking, 2016). Warnick examines the emotional side of place attachment, while also offering practical advice for readers looking to create a sense of belonging.

In “This Is Home: The Art of Simple Living” (Hardie Grant Books, 2018), Natalie Walton offers photographs of fifteen homes around the world. By interviewing the people who created these homes, Walton seeks to show how each individual can make a living space that makes them happy.

Cover of There's No Such Thing as Bad WeatherEveryone from every state complains about their weather, but Missouri is objectively terrible. We get punishingly hot and humid summers and cold, icy winters. In “There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather” (Touchstone, 2017), Linda Akeson McGurk espouses the Scandinavian idea that there is no bad weather, just bad clothes. You can’t change the weather of the place you live, but you can adapt so you are able to enjoy it all year round. This mindset of acceptance and adaptation applies to many other areas of life.

In “The World-Ending Fire” (Counterpoint, 2018), Wendell Berry’s essays urge readers to think locally in a mass-produced world, encouraging everyone to establish a strong connection with their community and to grow their own food (or at least eat food grown close to home). Be it in his fiction, nonfiction or poetry, nobody can make me feel a sense of gratitude for the earth beneath my feet and the people around me like Wendell Berry can.

Cover of The World-Ending FireWe are all roommates on this planet, so we need to treat our shared home with consideration. There are many ways to reduce your carbon footprint and live in a way that is kind to the earth. You can start by not being the roommate who leaves trash everywhere, and Will McCallum’s “How to Give Up Plastic” (Penguin Books, 2019) can help you do just that.

Part of loving your home is accepting the things you cannot change about it. It is also an act of love to change the things you cannot accept. “Road Map for Revolutionaries” by Elisa Camahort Page (Ten Speed Press, 2018) offers practical protesting advice to empower you to stand up to the injustices blighting your city, state, nation or world.

Cover of Road Map for RevolutionariesYour body has always been a home for you. It has enabled you to experience this life and all of the miseries and enjoyments that accompany it. That alone renders it worthy of love, regardless of its size and composition. In “Body Positive Power” (Seal Press, 2018), Megan Jayne Crabbe empowers readers to enjoy and feel at home in their bodies instead of obsessing over shrinking them. To borrow her words, “life is already happening and you don’t need flat abs to live it.”

Cover of Maybe You Should Talk to SomeoneOur ultimate and inescapable home is our mind. This tangle of neurons and synapses lets us experience thoughts and feelings which shape our reality and dictate our actions. Though our brains have our best interests at heart, they can often go awry to our detriment. “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019) by Lori Gottlieb is the memoir of a therapist. As she treats her clients and seeks therapy for herself, she encounters many truths about how our emotions are trying to speak to us and how we can learn to listen productively instead of getting in our own way. At the beginning of the book, she asserts that, “It is impossible to know someone deeply and not come to like them.” I was skeptical. By the end of the book, I had to agree with her. Learning to know and love yourself deeply is the beginning of making your mind a happy, healthy home for you.