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The Emotional State of Home


The Emotional State of Home

Erin Burke

After just visiting my parent’s home, that was once my grandparents home, and the home that my father grew up in (returning many years later after having lived and traveled the world), it feels appropriate to meditate on the mysterious concept of home.  Home can be hauntingly elusive--something I’ve always longed for and vainly tried holding onto: A sense of place, somewhere you feel safe and nourished.  It’s not something I believe to be unique to me,  but a similarly understood experience for most in our modern world, having lived in so many different realities causing a strong need to find a true ‘home’.  

I’ve lived in more homes and with more people than seems appropriate, sometimes out of obligation, sometimes delight and others out of necessity. And I’ve always found myself mourning the loss of one and resisting the new, finding solace in the home I’ve created in my mind surrounded by my dear friends and family no matter how far or near they may be.  

At the deepest level home is ‘an astrological quest for the most fruitful arrangements of time and place'[1].  It is more of a spiritual practice that involves creating a place that the soul may rest.  But there is always a tension ‘suspended between the heart’s longing for a stable past and the spirit’s wish for an exciting future’ [2].   A tension I’ve been grappling with forever.

The restfulness of finally finding home is not unrelated to the strange longing for death that rarely becomes explicit in the minds of most… a longing for the ultimate rest....the journey into home as one that takes a lifetime of experiment and piecing together… and gives our lives the intimate focus that is the primary gift of home [3].

Occasionally I'll catch a glimpse of my youthful, simplistic perspective driving to my grandparent’s old house where my parents now live.  It’s a rare flashback of sorts when I’m not paying attention and reality bends and I can see through the layers that have been added, how it felt driving up on old Highway 30 as a child, past the Ponderosa now long gone, turning at the gas station that’s changed names a thousand times.  A strange cascading in my head that goes back and forth between the present and the past, jumping over mounds of years and experiences now tainting how it feels to arrive again at this place. This strange phenomenon, when it happens, is something I can never quite anticipate and always leaves me feeling a little shocked, realizing how the people and places I’ve known all create a sort of chemical reaction that has changed me.  And the experiences of seeing the world from up above… from the many planes, from the top of the Alps, from the Gazebo over our quaint Black Forest town, from the rooftop of my apartment in Nolita and my apartment in Paris, looking out over the Eiffel tower and the many reflections that these moments offer...their draw of transcendence, however real or imagined it may be.  It’s hard to go back to seeing the simplistic, small worlds I left, where everything had it’s place and made sense.  Now a kind of kaleidoscope of impressions that seems to become infinitely harder to scoop into meaningful perspective--or at least meaningful in a way that others will understand.

I’ve been reading Mark Rothko’s book, containing his philosophies on art, and he speaks about subject matter (within paintings) and how objects are the most obvious subject matter in paintings, then comes anecdotes and finally abstractions, but abstractions inevitably will lose some people along the way.  Abstractions refer more to the artist’s experience or view on some sort of experience.  It’s associating a ‘sense of philosophical narration of bringing all the related elements together to some unified end’[4].  And when experiences become so grand and moving, the abstractions become larger in our head until they reign in colors to identify them, where language strives to put words but fails to do justice to the story. There are only the senses that can bring you back home, when home has been fractured by so many realities.  The colors of the painting that draws you back into that moment, the smell of rain that quickens your soul or the sunset coming up in burgeoning pink and mauve behind Paris and the utter marvel that you get to live yet again.  All of these moments, these senses, these layers of the story that put your soul to rest-- an emotional state that becomes home.


1. Thomas Moore, The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life (New York: Harper Collins Perennial, 1996)

2. Thomas Moore, The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life

3. Thomas Moore, The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life

4. Mark Rothko, The Artists Reality Philosophies of Art




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