Sunday night at 7:00 pm and instinct says I should be parking myself on the couch to watch 60 Minutes. Like Elaine Benes of Seinfeld “I need to unwind” and am a creature of habit. But what is there to unwind from here in Vermont? I am, after all, wrapping up week two of a six week sabbatical, so work stress is non-existent. The air is clear and quiet, fall colors are coming up creating an endless changing view from my front porch; I have my books, writing, and even my cats with me and wine in the fridge. Sounds like heaven, doesn’t it. So why am I feeling so very out of sorts?
I am sure everyone to whom I described my Vermont sabbatical plans my melancholy will come as a surprise. I painted a happy picture of quiet reflection, long walks and bike rides, prolific writing, interrupted by bursts of home renovation and furniture shopping. And while, this is precisely what I am doing, I could have –in fact, did – predicted this mood. I am home sick.
There is only one reason that I bought this old and ailing farmhouse, I wanted it to be home -- the last place I would ever move to, the place I could settle in to slowly, collecting things and memories; a place perhaps where my children (or more likely their children) could build memories. Since I left home for college, I have had thirteen addresses, in seven different towns across five states (Alaska, Virginia, Michigan, Florida and New Hampshire). I always claimed to like moving – “I’m a gypsy at heart,” I’d chirp – but I think the reality is far more complex (as it usually is). With every move, I moved swiftly to set up house – organize, decorate, make it homey. But whether from Wal-Mart or Pottery Barn, those homey touches only create the illusion of home. Family, friends, security – those are the makings of home.
Okay. I am here in Vermont – surrounded by beautiful nature and welcoming neighbors – in the house I’ve wanted since I was a little girl. I am lucky enough to be sharing this adventure with a man whom I love very much (and who is quite handy too!), to be visited by friends and family, and to be healthy and financially secure to enjoy the time worry free. And yet … because I am here alone for a week or so essentially tucked away in two small rooms in the middle of a construction zone (that happens to smell like dead mice and old wet dog) … the home sickness creeps in, loneliness trumps reflection.
I also feel sure that if the house were odor free, had a working kitchen and one useable bathroom (instead of two that are each only half usable), with a comfy couch from where I could watch 60 Minutes on a September evening, the homesickness would abate. Ironic, maybe, but home sickness is also the need for the familiar, the predictable, and the routine. And (silly me), I was determined that my six weeks of vacation time would be anything but. (My partner could testify to the many times I’ve griped that we are in a rut, as we sat on just such a comfy couch in front of the TV!) So, yes, I am getting what I wanted, and it is making me quite uncomfortable, melancholy…. home sick.
The good news is, as anyone who ever went to college or summer camp, home sickness is temporary. It responds well to activity, exercise, fresh air and a sense of accomplishment. And, eventually, you either get to go home or you look up one day and discover you are home. So tomorrow, I commence Yoga classes, supervise the installation of a new heating system, finish painting the trim in (what will be) the living room, find an insulation contractor, and maybe go for a bike ride. But until then … I just need to unwind!