The word home has a connotation both immediate and distant. A home is intimate, that place where we belong, where they let us in the door whether we deserve it or not. As something one does, home has traditionally been distant, implying that one is going to it, or that one is being remotely guided to it.
Pigeons, I have read, find home even when they don’t know where they are, by relying on magnetic fields, and the sun. Some of us have a sense of not belonging in this place where we find ourselves, and of home being somewhere else, such that we can feel it though we don’t know the way. We hold out hope that, like those pigeons, some mysterious force will draw us home. The pigeon has the sun, and the Christian has the Son, and I think a great many other people who don’t know where they fall on the pigeon-Christian axis hold a quiet hope that something will emerge for them too, guiding them to a place that is not here, because in the old ways of using that word home, the verb implied the absence of the noun.
The verb form of house, meanwhile, is immediate and impersonal. When we say something is housed, we mean that it is sheltered now. There is no seeking in relation to house, and no intimacy either. The house is where we keep our things, including our tired skin and bones. It is what we settle for when we can’t go home.
I recently learned that home has the same root, in the old pathways from which our languages emerged, dusted themselves off, and were immediately slaughtered for the sake of newspapers and corporate annual reports, as haunt. This is fitting, I think, because our home that place we are tuned to seek haunts us. Home is the place we yearn for even when we have never seen it, or perhaps have only seen it in glimpses or dreams.
It is best not to get too comfortable with this place, for eventually we will be called home, and how sad would it be, do you think, to cling to here for fear of there? Home is where, for some of us at least, people we have loved wait for us, which is perhaps why it haunts us. We have grown accustomed to the use of haunting as something dreadful, but it can also be something lovely and melancholy, especially when one is haunted by visions of home.
We weep for ourselves, when the people we love go home. We weep with sadness that we are left here for a time longer, and with joy that, for those we have lost, home is no longer what is sought, but what has been found.