Monday, November 02, 2009

Home away from home...

Without question, without any doubt, without apology, I know and proclaim that the place my heart and soul find deepest rest and peace is in the country of Spain. When the wheels of whatever aircraft I happen to be on touch down on the tarmac at Madrid's Barajas International Airport, I practically burst into song.

Until breakfast at La Uni Cafe in Valladolid, Spain, this past September 16th, I hadn't heard the song that ought to be playing on my ipod every time I land there: "This is Home." (Unfortunately, I have not been able to find that particular version of the song on Itunes as yet, but I'm still searching.)

I was born in New York City nearly 44 years ago and spent the next 17+ years there. Since then, I have lived in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and North Carolina, but Spain is my home. My heart's home. My soul's resting place. Until I can afford to own or rent a place there, however, my place of residence, my soul's layover point, if you will, continues to be Whatever City, USA.

Someone filled and left that black journal there for others to peruse and marinate in. It is laying on top of my journal - into which I copied many questions and statements and words of wisdom gleaned from reading my new favorite "little black book."

Less than a month ago, I discovered my heart and soul's home away from home. It's a converted warehouse space in a part of Charlotte I had only driven through on my way to one of the groovy, artsy-fartsy parts of Charlotte. A part of Charlotte I have only driven through as quickly as possible.

But one day back in early October, the kids and I drove through "that part of town" more slowly, in search of 24-7. We found it. Across the street from an unfinished condo complex, a sign of the real estate and financial crisis that has gripped this nation for more than a year now.

We approached the rather unremarkable door, pushed it open, stepped inside - and I began to weep. Immediately.

A self-portrait taken at 24-7.

We all know that it doesn't take much to make me cry, but these tears were different. These were the tears of a child returning home after several weeks at summer camp. A child that has had fun at camp, made new friends, gone on hikes, eaten hot dogs and smores around the fire, and had a wonderful time.

What the child doesn't realize until she returns home - and what I didn't realize until I stepped into that sacred place - was how much she missed home. How much she needed to return to a place where all was peaceful and quiet and welcoming and warm and there were no expectations for clever banter or malicious gossip about the weakest link in the camp cabin. I desperately needed all of those things, more than I knew.

The writing on the wall. An invitation to come away and rest. I said, "yes."

Stepping into 24-7 was like returning home. Rediscovering the place where quietness and peace reign. Private alcoves to sit and read and pray and cry and take communion and look at the drawings and paintings created by other visitors and read other people's words in journals and on the walls, and add my own to theirs.

This is what that lovely metal table looked like after I unloaded all my loot and took up temporary residence last Saturday. Many pages of collages and journaling and prayers were composed on that table in the midst of that mess.

I sat there quietly for nearly three hours. Emptying not only ink cartridges but also the satchel of shame and pain and resentment and loneliness and fear that I didn't realize I was carrying. And somewhere in the midst of all that, while draining my large water bottle and refreshing far more than my dehydrated body, I heard my soul whisper something faint but unmistakable -

"This is home."


Lisa said...


Thank you for sharing this experience!

(I felt the same among the fellow attendees at Grailville during last week's conference.)

I'm glad you were able to unload some of that unknown burden. Amazing how we don't realize all that we're carrying around, huh?


I know where you're taking me on my next trip to Charlotte :-D

ragamuffin diva said...

I am in LOVE with this place, Gail. And this post. I'm longing to create a space like this at home. Apparently, I should be thinking of a place like this for the community, too. Blessings!