We spent last week in Tampa with our dear friends Ying and Ståle, partaking in our usual round of cooking, eating, and talking about everything. I feel very relaxed and I’m quite sure my chin is rounder than it was when we left Oakland.*
cronut (again, Ståle’s work)
When we first stepped through their door on Monday evening I felt a great sensation of homecoming. During our previous visit, one year ago, we had just signed the lease on our first apartment after almost two years of travel, so we were just starting to get settled again. I was surprised to feel strongly that here, in our friends’ house, we had come home.
I found myself asking, the next morning: What is ‘home’? Is home a place, a person, a building, a state of mind? Ying and Ståle are both homemakers, in the sense that they constantly and very actively shape their living space. Ying has a superb intuition for design and flow, and is assiduous about keeping everything clean; Ståle cooks and bakes and has, since last January, installed new flooring and toilets, built a deck and planter boxes, acquired plants, and goodness knows what else. Neither Erik nor I make a home quite as vigorously. I arrange, select, and decorate, and Erik provides input and help, but we don’t shape in the same way; we don’t remake. Is that what creates a home?
Or is it that the “home” we’ve experienced here, staying with old friends, feels cozier because of more people to share the work and the enjoyment? Is it that it’s more companionable to sit four (or more) at a round table, than to sit two at a rectangular one with the drop-leaves folded — to catch up on each other’s lives and trajectories rather than just the events of the day? Does a larger group diffuse the inevitable uniformity of a couple’s life — especially a stay-at-home couple — even if the couple is happy?
Ying’s colleague Benny brought his dog, Yuki
Or is it just association? Would it feel just as much like home if we returned to any of our former living spaces, because of all the warm remembrances? Maybe home is actually more home if you don’t live there all the time: it’s the proverbial effect of absence upon that susceptible organ of emotion.
Or does this home feel more like a heart-place because of the spacious rooms, the big yard, the quiet neighborhood? I resist that; I want a small residence, and I do not like the suburbs. But maybe this is part of the tradeoff — in a city one has more activity, more community, but less homestead, less I-claim-this-land-in-the-name-of-my-descendants.
My home is where Erik is; I’ve said this for years. But maybe it isn’t only where he is. And so our visit here has got me thinking about that.
Moreover, it is often stimulating just to live with someone else for awhile. It is an interesting comparative immersion: they do things this way; we like their way better, or we don’t. One leaves with insights. I want to cook more, have more friends over for dinner, and explore the Bay Area a bit more than we’ve been doing. I’ve let clutter build up. And I think Erik and I have gotten a bit staid, socially, since we stopped traveling; we got tired of running around, and bored of driving, and tied up with family gatherings, but still it might be good for us to get out more.
watching Ying’s pottery class
afternoon walk at Fort De Soto, near St Petersburg
raptors at the St Petersburg farmers’ market
Sunday lunch by donation at the Wat Mongkolrata Temple
*Although Ying and Erik are both good cooks, Ståle and I are more fanatical and experimental about it (not to mention, often, more gluttonous). During the course of our stay Ståle made brioche, pain palladin, gnocchi, baklava, Korean-style chicken wings, pad thai, triple-cooked pork belly, cronuts, and an astonishing chocolate cake; I made chocolate-coconut-pistachio cookies, chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, wontons, green curry fish, tom yum, and sticky rice with mango. Yes, all of this from scratch. I need to go eat another piece of baklava as I write this. Yes, need. go back