“Are you settled yet?” Rather like when I was preparing for retirement, we could have become rich from the number of times we’ve been asked that following our recent move. (“Have you packed yet?” was a similar repeated enquiry beforehand.)
So, when people ask us if we’re settled – the answer has often been “No”: much to their surprise. “Yes, it takes a long time to empty the boxes, doesn’t it?” they reply, recovering from such an unexpected response. (We’re seasoned movers – this is our tenth home together and my 23rd… it’s not the boxes. They went a long time ago.)
But nearly three months on and finally, yes, we are beginning to feel settled – but only beginning. It’s been a very hectic period: the joy of our daughter’s own move and ordination alongside the reality of our change. We’ve been made to feel very welcome here and Jane’s new role is slowly taking the shape we hoped it would.
We moved so she could take up a part-time, House for Duty post – in other words, no salary but we get the vicarage to live in and the benefits that brings with it (which are many).
It is a house. It is a house we would not buy. It is a house we would not necessarily choose – especially the carpets. But it is a house – a house which is not yet a home.
So, to misquote the 1st century Roman, Pliny the Elder, home is not where the heart is – and the heart is not yet at home.
If someone was to ask me where my home is, though, then Devon is probably the place I would name. It’s the county of my birth and has provided homes and houses to live in for nearly 2/3rds of my life. There are other special places which have a sense of home to them also: York, Malvern, Romsey, Sherston. But there’s only a few of the ten houses that Jane and I have lived in which I can truly say felt like a home – homes where the heart lived.
A couple of weeks ago I spent some time on retreat. I am a lay member (called an oblate) of the Benedictine Monastic Order and I visited Mucknell Abbey in Worcestershire for the first time. My monastic home up until now has been Alton Abbey in Hampshire but, sadly, that has now closed.
So I went to Mucknell in search of a new home. A new home for the heart, in many ways.
And in doing so, I have found one. Indeed, I have rarely felt ‘at home’ so quickly.
All that then has made me reflect on the nature of ‘home’. Where is our home? What does it feel like to have a home where the heart is?
And I wonder if rather than being solely a place or a building, whether ‘home’ is more about those times when our mind and our spirit are at peace with our heart, and each is living with the company of God.