Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Home Away from Home

Home doesn’t have to be the place you grew up, or even where you spend most of your life. Sometimes it’s a place you’ve only experienced a few times, but still calls to you. Such places, the real Homelands, are almost more in the heart than in the mind. For example, when I go to Hungary with my family, it’s not from a wealth of memories that I enjoy it. Family helps, but bonds of blood don’t create the feeling of resonance one cannot help but feel as you step onto it for the first time. It can be anywhere, no matter your genealogy. I have an African American friend who absolutely loves everything about the mountains and snow. The place itself isn’t important until you are first overwhelmed by your love of the land.
For me, it’s always been the rolling plains and grassy, low mountains of Hungary. The air, the water, the feel of the rocks and dirt and plants under my feet…it just feels right. There’s an unidentifiable feeling of clarity, even tranquility that comes with knowing you’re Home. Home is, in this case, not a place of your past, but of your soul. The people are part of it, true. But more than that, it’s the land itself, the feeling of history, the sense of lineage which begins vibrating deep in your bones upon returning to your Homeland.
The Maori, though, have found both in their native land. Their connection to nature is so obviously deep, so intense, that home is no longer an option so much as it’s a part of them. Several characters make this point. For example, Hemi states “the land and the sea are our whole lives” (98). Their ancestors, thanks to the wharenui, are not only a palpable presence, as my forefathers are when I walk through the hills of southern Hungary, but are a constant reminder of their family histories as well. The Maori, as a result, are even closer than most cultures to their concept of “home”, as it includes their families’ souls and their living place, all in one. Home, for them, is a different thing than ours, possibly even more important.

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