The Journey Home

A surreal look at small town America; a color photograph of a bridge leads to the sepia tone of small town America buildings.

Photograph by Brian Scott Casey

“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.”  Matsua Basho

For a long time, I thought I was looking for my home.  I have loved and lost many places in pursuit of this dream; left them behind me and kept on looking.

I lived in Missouri for 19 years, and never once felt like I belonged.   My youth was a series of unfortunate events, plagued by a desperation to be anywhere but where I was.  The road that led me out of there was chiseled into the hard edge of the limestone hills that had always seemed like strangers to me.

I remember Missouri best rolling behind me in the rear-view mirror, my past receding in a speeding haze of rust and green.  The rush of the wind against my face blew away the stale air that had hung in all the places I had been before.  A weight in my chest lifted, and the motion of the car kept it suspended.  Finally, I could breathe.

I followed the road south until it hit the Gulf of Mexico, and I could drive no further.

The waves of the Gulf of Mexico lap against the white sand beach of Pass Christian, MS.

Photograph by Brian Scott Casey

It was there, in Southern Mississippi of all places, that I first thought I had found my home.  I sat atop a wooden staircase that led to an astonishingly blue Mississippi sky. I stared down at the bayou as it snaked through the open marsh. I saw myself reflected there along with the shifting clouds.

Later, I wandered the streets of New Orleans, young and drunk and in love with the city.  I finally felt like I had found the place where I belonged.

To read more about New Orleans, check out my post Falling Out of Love with New Orleans.

Lights flicker off and on at night on the St Charles streetcar as it ambles through Uptown New Orleans.

Photograph by Brian Scott Casey

My time in the south baked some of the anger from my bones.  The hot glare of the sun bleached some of the stains from my soul, and I was better for having been there.  Then that place broke my heart, too, and I knew I wouldn’t stay.  I took to the road again, still looking for a place that I could keep forever.

My journey in search of home took me next to the cool, green respite of the mountains.  I saw them first near midnight, and they grew like towering shadows against the night sky outside of my car window.

As morning came, I was still driving.  The sun rose over the Cherokee National Forest, and my car snaked along the curves and twists of a rushing river. I put my hand out the window in the slipstream, and I felt the coolness of the river in the air, palpable.

The morning sun flares over a river in the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee.

Photograph by Brian Scott Casey

Early in the morning in the mountains, there is a feeling of being washed clean that is like nowhere else in the world. The grime and the mistakes of the day before slake off with the morning dew. You inhale and the air is cold and wet and clean, and you are new again with each breath that you take.

The fog began to lift from the green forest hovering at the edge of the road. I leaned my head out the window, inclining my neck and gaping upward. Inch by inch there was more, a mountain growing before my eyes, mountains on all sides. There the mountains are tall and steep, and huddle close together in the sky.

Then I felt them. I felt the deep, resounding vibrations of the mountains, the pulse of the force that beats beneath them and sends them forth from the earth itself. I felt it in the center of my chest. I felt a pulling inside of me that leaped in the air towards them. I felt like I was coming home.

Early morning sunlight filters in rays through the trees in Cherokee, NC at Mile High Campground.

Photograph by Brian Scott Casey

This wasn’t the sheer magnitude that you feel when you see the ocean or the mountains for the first time. It wasn’t the wonder of nature that you can find in any wild place, if only you know where to look.

This was something else entirely. It was something so particular, and so old. Something deep within me that recognized them, that knew them, that heard them calling and welcomed them with the rushing forward one uses when greeting an old friend.

It was something inside of myself that I had not known, that had lain dormant until chance and poor navigation led me here at sunrise to meet these mountains again.  I nestled into the blue haze of this place and counted myself found.

A soft haze filters over the Blue Ridge Mountains with evergreens in the foreground.

Photograph by Brian Scott Casey

Two years later I felt a familiar restlessness rising up within me.  I longed to go somewhere far from everything I had ever known.  To find someplace new. To change again.

I flung my family to the far reaches of land itself, on a tiny sandbar at the end of a long and winding road on the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica.  The jungle crowded against the black sand of the most perfect beach.  The ocean rocked back in forth in emerald waves, and it was more beautiful than I had ever imagined any place could ever be.

I could see myself coming there again and again.  I felt that place  settling into my soul, and I wanted desperately to keep it forever.

To read more about my adventures in Costa Rica, check out my post Pura Vida.

A technicolor sunset reflects off the wet black sand of Playa Zancudo, Costa Rica.

Photograph by Brian Scott Casey

Still, I wasn’t home.  Back in the mountains now, I finally realized I have been looking for the wrong thing all along.  It is the very idea of home which troubles me, and not my lack of it.  Why should I have to find one place which I can keep forever?  Would this make me happy?  Is this even what I want for my life?

Home is such a pervasive idea, both in life and in writing.  So many words have been written about it.  So many people are wandering around, desperately seeking it just as I was for so many years.

Cloud shadows race against the green foreground of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Photograph by Brian Scott Casey

I lay down this false dream, this consuming need to possess a place of my own. Suddenly, I am free.  I can go anywhere, be any place.  I have no longer lost all those places I left behind me.  They are simply part of my journey, places that I have loved and learned from and can visit again.

I am no longer lost; no longer looking for a home that I will never find.  I have found my home here, on the page, in between these blue lines where it has always been.

I wonder where my words will take me next?

An arch made of tree trunks stands in front of a green path with the word Discover in blue over it.

Photograph by Brian Scott Casey

To read more about my journey, be sure to follow me in LOCUS: A journey in search of PLACE.

Battling a case of wanderlust yourself?

Check out the resources below and start planning a trip!

Center for Sustainable Destinations

Run by National Geographic, this group works to protect the world’s distinctive places through wisely managed tourism and enlightened destination stewardship.

Flipkey

A great resource for finding vacation rentals all over the world.  Don’t be afraid to contact the owners of houses to ask for discounted rates, especially if you are planning your trip far in advance!

Hovelstay

A newer website that lists places to stay on the cheap.  From modest vacation rentals to tiny houses and other unique spots to stay, this site is definitely worth a look.

Do you have a great travel resource that you think should be listed here?  Let me know and I’ll add it to the list!

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