residency

From: Skye
To: Me
Subject: RE: Hello from Madison

Glad you're finding some sweet gems around your new home. I hope you keep finding positive things to keep your spirits up over the winter. I don't want to project, but I know you're a super social person like I am and sometimes being alone in the middle of a forest can have its bad days. Forget being in the middle of a forest - even just being someplace where you don't have a big social network that you're used to can be challenging. But it can be really beneficial for some top quality productivity though. Really Brian is on a post-doc research posting, and you are on an artist residency.

.....

How do friends have such magical powers? They always seem to know what to say, right when you need to hear it. When I was younger, I'd always dreamed of being an artist-in-residence, and it didn't occur to me until Skye's email that I should consider these colder first months of the year an artist residency, a time to isolate myself from distraction and immerse myself in my art. It's a temporary gift, and one that I will not squander.

My status here in the US is that of the dependent of a Non-resident Alien. I'm here, but not forever. There will be a next place, but I don't know where that will be. To reside is to have one's permanent home in a particular place, and ours is transient.

When we did our paperwork at the border, the officer looked at Brian's credentials, smiled, and said, "well, it looks like you're going to be a VIP of sorts down here." When he opened my papers, he just asked me to place my fingers on the scanner and then stamped my form. I didn't even have to explain my plans, which was kind of a relief, but I'd been gearing myself up to explain how I'm a photographer whose clients are all in Canada, and that I'll just be working on strengthening the infrastructure of my business and working on my art until wedding season starts. Ha! What a nerd. Thank goodness for the officer that he didn't ask to hear my life story.

I've been joking about how I'm here on a riding-on-the-coattails visa, and that's really the truth of it. As an independent person, it's unsettling to be classified as a "dependent," and it's a bit scary to know that in marrying an academic, I've committed to a future of certain uncertainty in terms of where we will move and when, and what life will be like in any given place.

But really, do we ever have certainty? Life can and does change in a heartbeat.

What makes a home? Is it knowing that where you live will be your house forever? Is it a mortgage? Is it staying in your home town? Is it finally being able to get a dog because you have a place for it to run, and you have a regular schedule that allows for walks? Is it in choosing the perfect paint colour for your living room? Is it being able to have your family over for Sunday dinners?

Or is it something else?

When you're closing in on thirty, it seems like your home should be a place and a rhythm by now. A city or a town and a house by now. But what if it's not?

Here's what I've decided: It is your sense of hope for the future. It is the depth of love for your family. It is the pride you feel for your friends and the amazing things they are doing with their lives.  It is in working a little bit every day on your dreams. It is in the quiet moments in between emails and laundry and texting and making dinner. It's the excitement you feel when travelling to meet someone close to you. It's in the pleasure of anticipation, the longing for comfort, the sigh of relief to hear all is well with those you love.

Home doesn't have to be a place. Home is the courage that resides in your heart, wherever you may go.


I love this necklace, created by Rachel of Brazen Design, and given to me for Christmas from Brian. It reminds me not to be a baby and to enjoy every minute of this adventure, even the quiet, solitary ones.