Here in Kentucky and throughout much of Appalachia there are many abandoned homeplaces that are still honored and revered, even as they fall into the earth. I have written about this phenomenon several times [as well as here and here and again, here!] at In the Pantry. [And I just found my essay "Homeplaces" on Google books, as it appeared in the 2008 issue of Early Homes. If it doesn't appear, you can scroll down to the end and read it: last page of text before two ads.] I will likely continue to muse about them here on my new blog and in future writings––as the idea of "homeplace" captivates me. Also the sense of belonging, of family who stay near each other on their ridges or in their towns or who come back to each other, to their own terra firma. You can't really replace that feeling of togetherness, of kinfolk. Even when the old homeplaces fall into the ground or get overgrown by vines and the creep of nature, the offspring of those who were raised in these places, their families, usually abide.
For the fortunate, home is a sacred place, for others it might be a hell or completely destroyed in an act of nature or fire or selling off. I realize, while the location of our homeplace has changed in recent years, that it's really about the people you are with or the home that you carry in your heart. I'm not a natural nomad by any stretch but I do know now that home is within us, or in our memories, or in the places where we are able to return. I often dream of various places where I have lived and they are all homeplaces, of sorts: one has even been a museum for more than fifty years and is now the repository of "home" for part of my family. I can revisit them in mind at any time. I can see the rooms as they were. These are just shells and husks of existence, but such important cocoons and feathered nests to who we are and to who we might become.
Here is an excerpt from Home Economics, a book of essays by Wendell Berry. He, too, waxes on about the specific reasons why Amish (and also from our experience, Old Order Mennonite) farms survive on. It is that bonding to the earth and most of all, to family and community, and to the old ways of doing things. His poetry often speaks of home and place and rootedness. As a farmer who writes, how could it not?
A Standing Ground
However just and anxious I have been
I will stop and step back
from the crowd of those who may agree
with what I say, and be apart.
There is no earthly promise of life or peace
but where the roots branch and weave
their patient silent passages in the dark;
uprooted, I have been furious without aim.
I am not bound for any public place,
but for ground of my own
where I have planted vines and orchard trees,
and in the heat of the day climbed up
into the healing shadow of the woods.
Better than any argument is to rise at dawn
and pick dew-wet berries in a cup.
~ Wendell Berry
And that, my friends, is the end of my sermon for today.
You come back when you're ready!