Pointing My Compass Toward Home

Pointing My Compass Toward Home by Sally Wiener GrottaIn early August, a yellow jacket hitched a ride on our windshield. I’m sure it was entirely by accident. He had landed on the glass, as a rest stop in his flight to and fro (from and to where, I’ll never know). Of course, we were parked at the time – at the vet’s picking up medicine for our dog Watson as the last stop in an afternoon of errands. So, you can imagine the wasp’s disconcertion when his resting place suddenly growled to life and started moving at the speed of wind. He hugged the glass, splaying his six legs as wide as possible, maximizing contact with the surface, holding on for dear life. (Why he didn’t just let go and fly away is another mystery to me.) We didn’t stop again, until we arrived home, about 15 miles over the mountain from where he first touched down. He remained on the windshield, while we unloaded the car. I didn’t see when he flew away.

I’ve been wondering ever since about that yellow jacket. Did he ever get back to his home turf? Could he survive away from his nest? Was he so traumatized by the experience that he no longer could function as a normal everyday, workaday wasp? Or do modern wasps take such disruptions in their routine in stride? (Or, should I say, in flight?) After all, our yard, cemeteries, field and stream are rich hunting grounds for wasps, bees, birds and all kinds of critters. Was the trip on our windshield therefore an easy relocation for him? If so, did he ever find a new nest, a new family, new friends, to help him redefine his sense of self within a place?

Yes, I know I’m anthropomorphizing an insect. However, I really am curious what that trip on our windshield meant to the wasp’s existence, beyond the existential, even while his unknown fate makes me think of my own existence, my understanding (or uncertainty) of the meaning of “home.”

One very easy (and sincerely meaningful) answer to “what is home?” is to say it’s the people you love. And I certainly experience that essential truth when I sit at our kitchen table or on our back porch with Daniel and Dad, Watson at our side, and the cats pussyfooting around nearby.

But there’s another home that is more elusive, a feeling within that can be self-defining, even as who I am changes when I move from place to place, not just geographically, but within myself.

Who am I? What is my home self? The person within me, to whom I can return and be where I belong, who I should or want or need to be?

I have felt the seed of this home being, when my writing is flowing, or in the afterglow of making love, or in the taste of the sweet country air along our stream. It’s a blossoming of hyperconsciousness, or sometimes of yogic peace, or at other times, a belly-pumping laugh.

Home. The woman I can become when I have finally arrived where I belong. It’s a direction, a path I travel to a destination I may never reach. In the meantime, I believe I am enjoying the trip much more than that yellow jacket did. And should I let go and fly off for a time, I know I can return, as long as I keep my compass pointed toward home.

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