There is a house on a hill I have never entered, but it feels like home. It faces the sea, and I'm sure every day its rooms fill with briny wind and waves of shadow, and every night the peace of stars. I stand outside its white wooden walls and look through the door at its gold-brown wooden floors, and wish with all my heart I lived there.
It feels like home because inside there is a woman who looks out at people like me - tourists clambering the old hill paths, having picnics in what is practically her back yard - and I have been her in another house, a distant place. I have stood in the belongingness to a land which other people visit, many of them wishing to belong there. But the thing is, I belonged to a land I didn't really love.
Oh, I knew it well. I could run its paths blindfolded. Even decades after I last did it, still cover my eyes and I could do it again. Those paths are veins of my wider body. But I do not love them in the way I love a soft track through tall calm forest, or a swathe of foot-pressed grass over a hill.
And so the hill house feels like home because it reminds me of both what I had and what I wish I'd had. To be honest though, I feel a great deal of guilt for not wanting what I was given. My stony ground and dusty hill and familiar paths love me, yearn for me - I feel them calling all through my days for me to go home. Sometimes the call is overbearing, other times I am happy to be there a while. It makes me wonder, does belonging equate to peace? And is there a difference between empathy and belonging, between familiarity and belonging? For that matter, can we belong somewhere due to the force of that land's desire for our presence?
Ultimately, I am within myself both what I had from life - damp shadow, old smoke, witch-murmured dreaming - and what I wish I'd been given instead - apple-scent, gentle light, new bread braided with wishes, white sheets gathering high clean wind. The trick is working out which one is my shadow and which my soul.
And maybe this is the case for many people. Maybe it's even the Way home. Life gives us situations, influences, the longings of others, and we must work our way through them to find who we really are and perhaps even what we'd like our heaven to be.
Do you have a place you belong, and a place you wish you belong, and are they the same? If not, how do you reconcile that?