Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Going Home

Climbing up on Solsbury Hill, I could see the city light.
Wind was blowing, time stood still. 
Eagle flew out of the night. 
He was something to observe. 
Came in close, I heard a voice. 
Standing stretching every nerve, 
Had to listen had no choice. 
I did not believe the information. 
I just had to trust imagination. 
My heart going boom boom boom. 
"Son," he said, "Grab your things, I've come to take you home."
--Peter Gabriel, Solsbury Hill 


The idea of home is a funny one to me. Throughout my life I've battled with it as a concept, and as a child who moved seven times before the age of eight, I was never very good at thinking of myself as coming from a specific place. Being a runner now, and running through areas that I've lived and grown up I know that I lean more towards sentimentality than those previous statements imply.

A given long run might go something like this: I leave the house I live in now (and love) and head south. Across the bay I see the place that I work, which I often think of as another home, due to how much time I spend there. I turn towards the west and run past the street we lived on when I was five years old. If I ran down the hill, as I sometimes do, I would see the old victorian where we rented the second floor. I remember having night terrors and hallucinations of bees in the bay window. The old creaky radiators, and my mothers old dual tape dubbing deck playing the sounds of the Allman Brothers Band in 1989.

Heading further west I could head down the old turkey trot loop, and pass the antique carousel, still in operation due to volunteerism and the generous support of the community. I can remember going there with my parents, my grandparents. If I'm running in the early afternoon of spring, I'll hear the old band organ cranking out one of it's familiar marches. The animated drum major jerks her arms, as if conducting the music. I loop back towards the main road.

Heading into the town where I spent my life from eight years old until age eighteen, I might run past the streets of many friends, teachers. I head back east, running along a main highway, and along the river. I grew up on that river.

I remember falling in, off our dock, at about age six. My dad had jumped in after me and pulled me out, one of the things I look back on now and realize the value he really did place on our relationship. We've had a really strange and rough journey that now exists in a state of estrangement. It is hard to forget the times he walked me to the bus stop, took me fishing and cheered me on when I tried all sorts of things.

I think of the numerous boating and fishing trips, muscling out distance in hand powered crafts, and not ever letting up, just keeping a consistent, steady effort. Maybe I was meant to be an endurance athlete and I never noticed it then.

I pass the apartment we lived in when we moved back. When I came home. There was such comfort in waking up and seeing the river I grew up with, as if it was an old friend just across the street, beckoning me to come out and spend some time. I started running along this same road, all of my loops happened around there. I can remember running my first eight miles and thinking I was going to make it home, not at the point of the loop where I was furthest from home, but at the point where I was two miles away, and feeling too fatigued to continue.

I've run through all kinds of conditions here, and at all times of day. I've seen the lights of two prolific suspension bridges from across the bay at four in the morning. I've looked out from one point and seen the next point, about seven miles away, only to run there in fairly short form. This place has grown more a part of me. I feel that it is, in many ways, an expression of who I am. Or maybe who I want to be. Or who I see myself as.

These experiences occupy a spot in my memory that I will always hold dear. There are a whole variety of places that make up this dense little part of the earth, but they represent years of antics, shenanigans. Joys and sorrows. Friendships, relationships, good and bad. These temporal moments coupled with the geographic location -- is that what makes this home? Is it the feeling in my bones when I step out into the crisp Spring air for my first barefoot run? Or that time I was overwhelmed with joy when my daughter's favorite song came on shuffle right as I rounded the nineteenth mile of my long run.

As a musician, I've always been really fascinated with this concept of home as well. Peter Gabriel's famous song, Solsbury Hill, is about striking out on his own from Genesis, starting a new, and finding his own path. That's all well and good, it is an excellent song, and anyone who knows me knows of my deep love for Mr. Gabriel's music ("He taught me to sing," --I'll tell you that story another time) But one of my favorite things about that song is the orchestral version. When he reimagined his own catalog with orchestral accompaniment I was very excited. Having grown up loving his music and also being an orchestral player I felt like this was the two parts of my soul forming and giving me an incredible gift.

For the live version of Solsbury Hill, the orchestral version, the orchestra quotes at length from Beethoven's "Ode to Joy". I know that might seem cheesy to some, and I know that what I'm going to propose next might be ridiculous, but for many of us in the music world "Ode to Joy" is a lot like coming home. It is something kids learn to play on recorders. It is a piece that beginning instrumentalists have studied for years. As a music student and orchestral brass player, I know it well. It has the same feeling of home that my river does, that my carousel does. Hearing Gabriel's orchestra break into the Ode theme in the middle of it -- it has the feeling of stepping out into that crisp spring air, for me at least.

I find myself thinking a lot about what my daughter will think of as home in her own construction. I'd like her to not have as limited a view as I did growing up -- I very specifically think of one geographic location as home. Can you imagine having multiple places that felt of home to you? There would be an ease in travel, I would think. That could be a big strength for a person.

Or maybe it doesn't matter where you are so much as who you are with -- maybe that is an ideal version of home? Part of my concern comes from the tendency to become too materialistic. If you only ever think home can be in a house, then you have to be able to buy a house. That is great, if you want it, but it is harder and harder in my country to be a home owner.

Anyway, those are some ramblings and musings on home and my roots, early experiences.

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