The Perfection of the Morning: Thoughts on the Meaning of Home

Much attention is given to love & familial entanglements in novels but I find that the meaning of home is the real quest of many treatises - be in in a person or a place or to be at home with oneself. Heidegger's focus on being-in always resonated with me because we truly are always trying to find our place, whether physically or emotionally.

I find myself particularly concerned with this matter because a horrific adult rite of passage is soon to befall yours truly - the selling of my childhood home.

Junior B lived in Avondale, Nova Scotia from the age of 5-17 and I was even born in that fair province, making me the first true Maritimer of my family. Avondale is a village of 50 people that sits alongside the Avon River (that is itself an arm of the ocean via The Fundy Bay). It may not have a single store but it did have everything I needed growing up: a wharf for dreaming on, a lighthouse, a boat building shed/museum for summer employment, orchards & gardens for picking apples, pears, raspberries, blackberries and a host of vegetables, a couple of super hills for tobogganing, a pond for skating, a really spooky forest for double daring, tides for mudsliding and river bottom walking, fields for fort making and runningrunningrunning, my first love for heart-making and breaking, and one century home with a wrap-around porch, white wood siding and blue gingerbread detail for living, working and playing.

On November 30th this will all be gone.

In my search for solace, I'm going to be writing a couple of entries about books that capture the feeling of home I have (had!) in Avondale. It feels right to start with an old friend of mine called The Perfection of the Morning by Sharon Butala, a Saskatchewan writer.

This 1994 memoir captured my heart a couple of years ago because of Butala's intense spiritual devotion to her home, a cattle ranch in southwest Saskatchewan. Butala, a professor and intellectual, moved there to be with her rancher husband. She found herself completely isolated and turned to the land for meaning, fulfillment and healing.
 It is a geology stripped bare, leaving behind only a vast sky and land stretched out in long, sweeping lines that blend into the distant horizon with a line that is sometimes so clear and sharp it is surreal, and sometimes exists at the edge of metaphysics, oscillating in heat waves or, summer of winter, blending into mirages and the realms of dreams and visions which wavers just the other side of the horizon. The Great Plains are a land for visionaries, they induce visions, they are themselves visions, the line between fact and ream is so blurred. What other landscape around the world produces the mystic psyche so powerfully? Sky and land, that is all, and grass, and what Nature leaves bare the human psyche fills.
I see now that Butala's love of the Prairies is almost fetishistic, a strange habit among come-from-aways, and it contrasts sharply with the more easy being-in of native citizens (I believe now that cities can be as much home as farm land). However, because my own come-from-away family meshed so poorly with the village's residents (as Butala found as well) that I found particular solace in my natural environment. Without human interaction, Butala was forced to turn to herself and the land and formed an intimate bond with both. Her walks became hours of meditation and intense connection with her surroundings, her dreams became a fertile place coloured by the mythical quality of the Prairies, her reading became a avenue of self-discovery as she sought to understand the changes her connection to Nature had stirred within her.

I believe that Butala had found the sweet spot in life that is true being-in (and what we commonly refer to as home). The feeling of home flowers when we have an intuitive and intrinsic connection to our surroundings - a place that nourishes us spiritually, that becomes part of us. Even if we have to leave, if we have truly loved it, it lives in us, as home is what builds inside us the structure for grace.

Perfection Of The Morning/ Sharon Butala / HarperCollins Canada / PB, 1994 (revised edition 2005)

More:
-A brief introduction to Heidegger's idea of being-in-the world
-The author's website
-Browse inside the book (courtesy of the publisher)

4 comments:

Ceri said...

What a beautiful home. Gosh, I dread the day when my family home goes up for sale. It's weird - the town where I grew up is horrible, a real dive, and the area isn't the safest, and if I had the money, I'd buy my parents a big house somewhere safe and far away. But the idea of not being able to come back here is really sad. Too many memories.

B.Kienapple said...

I think it's tied to the fact that when you can't go back to where you grew up you officially have to acknowledge that that part of your life is over. Sad but true.

Diane said...

Your photos are amazing. Seems so peaceful and tranquil.

B.Kienapple said...

Thanks Diane! It really is a little slice of heaven..during the summer! NS in Winter can be a bit temperamental.

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