There is a light mist over the water and the horizon as I sit on a deck looking out over the shoreline at low tide, over the bay of the ocian, over the tops of the trees on the other side. The sun is hanging above a scud of cloud and shining warmly on me already at this early hour of the morning. A renegade squirrel is raining things down from the trees all around me. Inside the house, my wife and children sleep. Somewhere a truck is rumbling down a road or a boat is grinding through the water, but I can't see them from where I sit and that's just as well. I'm sitting still, letting the morning rise.
This is an odd place for me. Yesterday, walking the shoreline, stopping to observe crabs, to pick at orange-brown seaweed, and marveling over the movement of the tide, I thought how foreign this place is to me. It is as foreign as the West was to me with it's burnt orange cliffs and giant sky. I am used to my home in Syracuse with its grey skies and close feeling, its farms near the small city, its polluted lake, and its long, snow-filled winters. That is the place in which I feel most at home and has been for as long as I can remember. While I have lived elsewhere and am glad that I have, while I have happily vacationed in all sorts of places, I come back to Syracuse much to the chagrin and bewilderment of those who don't love the place and who, often enough, profess to hate it there.
That concept of home, of feeling at home in a place baffles my thinking because it defies thought and barrels right on into the realm of feeling and intuition, two places I am wary of going. There is a part of me that wonders if I feel lazy rather than at home, if I'm too frightened to set out for a new place and new adventure. When I think about staying in Syracuse, of feeling at home there, I worry that I'm choosing safety over risk, comfort over adventure. On the other hand, maybe I'm just aware of who I am and what I want and need. Thinking it through, I lose track of the pros and cons, I can't keep the score in my head. There are too many things going on. Thinking just won't do. I suppose it's a matter of feel.
Sitting here on the deck with the water almost perfectly still and the sun keeping me warm, I feel good but I feel also that I'm not going to stay, that I wouldn't stay even if I could. I mean, if someone gave me several million dollars and told me to set up home wherever I wanted, it wouldn't be here no matter how beautiful. This wouldn't even be my second home. I like it here, but there is no deep love in it for me. I'd take those millions of dollars back home and feel it out from there. How odd to be sure that I would forego the astounding beauty of this place for the grey cold of Syracuse. I don't feel odd about wanting that, I'm just surprised by how sure I am.
Being sure is a luxury, a gift, a wonder that doesn't happen all that often. To be sure of something is to feel it so deeply that it goes beyond question. I can think of very few things like that in my life. I have that luxury with my children, my wife, my dog; I have it with writing words on a page; I have it in my home. I'm envious in what I hope is a semi-healthy way, of people who have that kind of surety in their jobs, in their life's work. To tell the truth, I ache for that in my own life and not having it scares me enough that I shrink from the chances I'm betting are necessary to finding some sort of calling. It's a thought that keeps me up at night and troubles me in the new light of morning.
There is hope, however. Feeling out of place here, a vacationer in Vacationland hasn't led me to any kind of trepidation but has instead reminded me that I'm sure of where I love to be. Feeling out of sorts in my work may be my way of finding the work that will be play for me and which will keep me in this morning sunshine all the days I have. It's a good thought to open the day, to cast out into the lifting haze, to watch skip across the still water like a smooth stone thrown by a hopeful child who has no idea how far the stone can skip, but believes it might go on forever.