Monday, July 28

shared knowledge

I am holding half an acre
torn from the map of Michigan
and folded in this scrap of paper
is a land I grew in

Think of every town you've lived in
every room you lay your head
and what is it that you remember?

Yesterday I helped situate some extra beds in the house I am renting with my cousin and three other people. We are trying to put up a pair of French biochemistry students for six weeks or so, and it is not going smoothly.

I like the house - it is a two story bungalow, if that's the right word, and it has the good features of that most commonplace of American homes. There are built-in wooden bookcases in the living room, rooms with multiple doors, and a front porch with a swing. The one-third finished basement where I irregularly eat and sleep shows all the signs of its long-term occupation by short-term occupants. It is a good place to be in flux, although it is not precisely a home.

There is a set of places where I feel home - where I can find the glasses and the silverware, turn on the lights in the dark, stretch out on the floor, wander easily through the yard and down to the creek. These are places not really defined by geography, though the landscape and the artifacts are important because they are anchors for so many associations, but by the people who occupy them and what we know in common, what we have together made of the place.

I know more about the five acres my parents own than any other piece of ground in the world. What makes it home is the fact that my family knows most of the same things, and that all of us can exist there supported by that knowledge. It might be that I have had more than my fair share of such places, but I am certain that without them I would never have survived to even the meagre age of 22. My soul would have turned to dust without floors and walls and trees and wheatfields that all meant something.