Putting down roots…

Something is happening that I am just so deliriously excited about that it seemed like a good idea to write it all out and share it with anyone who’s interested 🙂 It’s nothing that would really tip the charts, but it makes me happy anyway…. drum roll….. I’m planting a garden!! There is this big unused space behind my office, so Amani and I have decided to make good use of it and plant vegetables. It’s pretty big so if we do well, we’ll have lots to enjoy and lots to share. So very fun!

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It’s exciting to watch things grow, and to see them from their very early stages through to something that can nourish and sustain us. Taking care of them through pests, dry spells without rain, etc. etc. It’s a journey and it’s a great feeling to begin preparing the land for what is coming.

All of this has reminded me of how much I have been thinking through what it means to be “at home” recently, and as a Canadian, working for a British NGO, based in Tanzania, it’s a bit confusing to know what that is. I have many “homes” and many places where I feel at home, but strangely enough, that often is not the place where I am at any given moment in time.

I travelled back to Canada recently, and had some good conversations with people I love and who love me. People who can be honest with me and cut through the nonsense to get to the heart of it. When I go home to Canada, I always struggle to get back on the plane to wherever it is that I am trying to be and work at that time. I always have this idea that maybe I am making a mistake, maybe I should just stay, maybe I will regret moving around and living halfway around the world. And the truth is, maybe I will. But the reality is that I have made a choice to be somewhere, to be here in Mwanza, and not to live in Canada right now. If I really think this is the wrong choice, I can go back, I am free to make that decision, but that’s not what I’m doing. What I am doing is trying to live with one foot in each place. To not fully let go of or embrace either, but in doing that I am not fully in one place or the other. I learned when I was home this last time that I have to let go of that home for now. Don’t get me wrong, the place where I grew up, where my family and dearest friends are, will always be home in one way or another, and will always hold a depth of meaning and belonging for me that I may not find elsewhere. BUT, I am not there now. I have made a choice to be here, and longing for there while I am here, makes me miss all of the beauty and goodness, and blessings of this place. There is something incredibly important about place and this is what I’ve been thinking of when I think of home. 

Wendell Berry is a new-found love of mine, and he says “… one cannot live in the world; that is one cannot become, in the easy, generalizing sense with which the phrase is commonly used, a “world citizen”. There can be no such thing as a “global village”. No matter how much one may love the world as a whole, one can live fully in it only by living responsibly in some small part of it. Where we live and who we live there with define the terms of our relationship to the world and to humanity. We thus come again to the paradox that one can become whole only by the responsible acceptance of one’s partiality.”

Love it Wendell (he’s good eh?). It sounds so silly that it’s almost not worth saying, but I have finally learned that I need to be where I am. here, in this place, now. I love and cherish all that I have left behind and work hard to maintain relationships and connections with those people I value and care for. But this is my home, and the really interesting part is that it is my home  even if it is not forever. I’ve had this idea in my head that we settle down at some point, that we find and make our home once, and that every other place is a transition, a temporary stop. I have been so wrong, and I think I have missed so much. We have to learn to settle in where we are, for however long we are there, and in whatever ways we can. We have to learn to take the risk of investing in relationships that may not last until my 80s, to build community and life in the temporary spaces and in the more permanent places we choose to be.

My garden project is one way that I am making this place my home, putting down literal roots and settling into this season. Into the preparations, the planting, the care and protection of what grows here, and into the anticipation of the goodness that will come from it. I know I won’t have this garden forever, I don’t even own this land, but I will have it for a season, and for that season, I will put my whole heart into it, be present with it and at home in this space.

What ideas do you have of home? What makes it hard to call a place home? What has made it easy?

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