There’s something elusive about the notion of home, the way it can evoke such a range of definitions, often mired in emotion and memory, and can come in so many shapes and sizes—a house, a country, a makeshift bed or a neighbourhood filled with familiar faces. Home can simply be the smell of freshly cut grass or the sway of laundry drying in the breeze. To some it’s the well-known taste of mashed potatoes or the inescapable boredom of long summers. To others it’s a feeling in the pit of the stomach, a security blanket or, contrarily. a dark lurking secret they dare not tell. Thoughts of home can elicit longings for escape and independence or the desire to burrow safely away in familiar territory.
Yet as it evades definition in all its variety, and although it may differ in beauty, comfort or temperament, home is inevitably a place, a feeling or a memory we all carry with us throughout our lives. Sometimes it’s not until we go away that we realize just how we feel about home.
And as we go away, we are faced with another set of definitions and emotions—contradictory feelings of exploration and isolation, independence and solitude, adventure and fear. To move away from home is to explore all that is unfamiliar, all that is different from what we know. It is a journey we undertake as we discover ourselves and create our own sense of home.
The concepts of home and away are explored by many of the contributors in this issue of Room of One’s Own. Wenying Xu details the conflicting emotions of a Chinese immigrant in Philadelphia who endeavours to regain her footing after a nasty divorce. Jiajing (known as Jenny to her American friends) struggles with her double identity—her distaste for the “village food” her mother eats, her telling dreams in Chinese, her rejection of religion. As she tries to make her way in America, she learns to come to terms with the roots she has left in her home land. Similarly, in “Dreams of Orange Trees.” Dorothy Trail Spiller’s protagonist is torn after an invitation to migrate south to California. The recent loss of her husband in a tragic boating accident leaves her trying to maintain a safety net for her family in Prince Rupert. BC. Nonetheless, the prospect of a warmer climate and sunnier outlook is tempting . . . a plight no doubt faced by many Canadians.
To read Frances Leviston’s “Dover Road. Pasir Panjang,” or Tanya Evanson’s ‘Skin of the Road” is to feel the very distance between home and away—the hearth and the hills, the old and the new. the weight of memory and the freedom of escape. Anne Hills continues that theme in “Jamie.” in which women around the world wake up to a unison of daily rituals that bond them together despite global distance and diversity. Then Tracey Lindberg brings us back toward home in “Love that Red,” where residents in a small Saskatchewan town must deal with local problems.
Both home and away can sometimes be ugly places, and many authors in this collection explore the darker side of this theme—the fear caused by family violence, the loss of a loved one and how it can change a home, the unfortunate transformation of a friend who goes away. Dolly Dennis’s tragic story “Airborne” vividly portrays a family shattered by domestic violence. Ancestors and dark family histories feature prominently in the poetry of Erin Noteboom and Michelle Denise Smith. Joyce Finn writes about the friend who goes away, only to return a less-likeable person, Lyn Lifshin details the death of a mother in her three-piece poetry series and Alice Zorn explores the relationship between two siblings after the death of a close friend in “Stiletto Heels.”
Poems by Lorri Neilsen Glenn. Christine Lindsay, Cathleen Hjalmarson. Ronnie R. Brown. Marianne Jones and Marni Norwich all veer slightly away from the main theme, touching on topics including security, death, family dysfunction, parental love, loss and history. The collection then ends where it began—in alluring far-away places like a Japanese bathhouse and the distant city.of Kyoto in Lillie Papps s “Sensual Purity” and Catherine Burwell’s “sumiyoshi heights.”
Whether you read this issue while tucked in a cozy corner of your home or while on the road to the far or not so far away, I hope this collection of fiction and poetry takes you beyond the bounds of new territory into a world you can call your home away from home.
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