Of course, I’ve heard people talk about it. I’ve heard them express love and admiration for it and I’ve heard them miss it. I’ve even heard of them leaving there by choice and being forced away by circumstance. I’ve heard of people returning there, of people taking it for granted, and about how you can never really go back there. I’ve heard a lot about it. Over the years, I’ve probably heard most of what people have to say about it. But I’ve never really felt it. I never really understood what it was. To be completely honest, I’m never even been there and I’ve never been sure that it really exists. It just sounds so made up. Home? What the fuck is that?
I’ve lived places. And then I’ve lived other places. I’ve lived in different places in those places. I know what it is to return to a place where I’ve lived and I know what it is to leave a place I live. I also know, in theory at least, that I come from somewhere. That I’m from somewhere. But where? I’ve never been able to make any sense out that.
I can show you a map. I was born in Oshawa, raised in Brownsville, Orono then in Newcastle. When I was 18 moved to Montreal then I moved to Toronto. I stayed in Toronto longer than I’ve ever stayed anywhere else. I lived in Kensington Market for three years to the day and I lived at Bloor and Lansdowne the rest of the time. I left Toronto. I left Canada. I lived in California. Sacramento then LA. I hated Sacramento, loved LA. But, whenever I leave a place, it gets harder to say where I’m from. Am I from Toronto? Is Toronto even really in Canada? Am I from LA? Does that matter when it comes to LA? Sacramento? No, definitely not there. Anywhere but there. Orono? It was all so long ago. All of these answers feel preposterous. Nowhere feels like home and nowhere really has. I was not, ever, in Toronto pining for my hometown. I fucking hated the place and it hated me. And, far as I understand it, home is where you’re from. But what if you’re from nowhere?
People ask you where you’re from. If you’re only from one place, it’s pretty easy to give an answer. If you’re from two, it’s generally the place you were at last. But for me? Whatever I say, seems like a choice. It’s editing. Do I say I’m Canadian or American? I’m both. But, one of these only involved being born in a place and the other only involved getting through a place. I don’t feel particularly connected to either place. They’re places. Big deal.
In terms of my ethnic heritage, my Mom is North Irish Protestant and my Dad is London Catholic and I’m a half Irish, half English Catholic (but not like that) who was born in Canada partly because he would have been so perfectly placed on the wrong side of most things anywhere else. I sometimes think of myself as British but even that is some sort of political choice though, to me, “British” is just about the best way to describe a mess that only the English could have made. And “white” seems even worse than British. Accepting that label feels like erasing my whole family history in order to benefit from racism. And I’m not saying that whiteness or white privilege is not real or that I’m not white and haven’t benefited from these things — only that it seems to me that it was terrible idea to invent whiteness and heterosexuality. But that’s another story. It’s a needle I still don’t know how to thread.
Given all of that, I find it really bloody peculiar how I feel about this place. About Damalji. I feel at home. More specifically –and this is where it’s going to get a little crazy– I feel like I’ve found my home here and my home is The Moon. Yes, that moon. I know it sounds lunatic. I did warn you. But it’s how I feel. I feel like the moon is my home and it’s the most at home that I’ve ever felt. I’m not sure I can explain why. My wife claims that I suffer from a sort of moon-madness. This is possible. There are worse ways to lose your mind.
The moon is a feeling of home. Distant, lonely, untouchable, but a presence. A presence who moves through a shadow. Half, full, a sliver, or an eclipse, our shadow slides over it. Without touching it, our shadow forms the moon’s shape. What we see of the moon, is the exact opposite of shadow and, just as in algebra, an exact opposite both contains and erases a thing. What we see of the moon is light reflected from the sun. We see the moon best when the sun is hidden. We see the sun best in the moon. The sun, itself, is too bright and hard. We cannot look directly at the sun. It burns our eyes. It blinds us. It carves a hot dot into our vision. Look at the sun long enough and you cannot ever look away from it again. Look at it long enough and the sun will be the last and only thing you ever see.
But the moon is kinder than that. The moon turns fire into milk. We can gaze upon it without blinding ourselves. This cold rock is the comfort of love without its obliterating passions. We don’t feel the moon in burned skin or blinded eyes. We feel the moon in tides. We feel it in the shifting of the liquid world around us. The moon moves oceans but it is unmoved. It is distant. It is solitude. But it is always there or soon to return. When the moon is not with us, its absence reveals the stars. The moon feels like home. The moon is a feeling of home.
Looking at the moon, I look at home.
They say home is where the heart is. If you want to find my home, you walk uphill towards the moon. You might never arrive. But that’s probably true of home too.