Home in the World: Unity in Multiplicity

Home in the World: Unity in Multiplicity

By Kerry Woodcock

Published in Global Living Magazine – Issue 19 | July/August 2015

Screen shot 2015-08-20 at 9.22.20 AMI peered through the cabin window. The blanket of snow, covering Calgary a few weeks earlier, had gone. A dormant grey-brown earth appeared to come up to greet us as we descended.

“We’re home,” I whispered, nuzzling the sweet-smelling locks of my baby son.

My gut lurched. Nothing to do with our descent; everything to do with the words I’d just spoken. Words of gravitas. Words not spun from my head, but flowing up from my gut and out through my heart. Words of warm liquid gold that pooled before me.

Exhilaration quivered through me, as I plunged over the edge into a new way of being. Home was no longer where Dad was. Home was where I was.

This realization had me free-falling.

Was Britain no longer home? Was Canada now home? ‘Home-home’? The place we belong and that belongs to us, not just ‘home’ the place that we sleep, eat and play together. Everywhere was ‘home’ for us, confusing many by saying, “We’re going home,” when in fact we were referring to a tent or a hotel room. But ‘home-home’? No, Canada was not yet ‘home-home’.

The pool of liquid gold solidified before me. Home was not a place outside me. Home was within me. I would carry my home and my father within me, everywhere I go.

My eyes smarted. Throat and face cracking open into a radiant smile. Calgary rushed towards me. I did not push it away. I let my breath go and let it come, my lungs filling with inspiration from this new place I found myself in. My sleepyhead boy stirred; his chubby hand reaching up to pat my lips.

Images of other hands, reaching out, came back to me.

Years earlier, the hand of my love, as we near a departure gate, reaching back, slow motion, sound distorted, color bleached, to pull me through the throng. We stand, kiss, tears flowing. I turn, passport in hand and wonder, as speed, sound, and color come crashing back, whether our relationship will survive another year on different continents.

Months earlier, another airport terminal, another departure gate. My father’s hand reaches back for mine. A snapshot. A keepsake. If only time will slow. If only his deep voice will continue to reverberate through me. If only it is not black and white. Terminal cancer. Is this the last place we will breathe together? An airport terminal; a departure gate? Surreal, yet apt.

A week earlier, back in Britain, by Dad’s bedside, I am inspired. Reaching up to point to invisible forces, he says, “They’re here! They’re here!” and beckons ‘them’ to him. On this occasion it is he who departs, leaving for a home that I hope to join him in… but not for a while longer.

I hold my son to me, as we hit the runway, carrying within me the gifts of my father, gifts of my home; gifts that I would continue to unwrap as my children and I grew.

Nine years since the death of my father. Nine years since I landed back in Calgary with a jolt. Nine years in no-man’s land, dancing backwards and forwards over the edge into a new meaning of home; a new identity. Twenty-nine days as a dual citizen of Canada and Britain; but home is not a duality for me.

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Home is unity in multiplicity: a wholeness through an unfolding of the many gifts I carry within me from the people and places I have called ‘home’. Home is a oneness within – a creative, courageous, collaborative space, filled with an abundance of extraordinary things.

Britain is the land in which I was born and lived for the first 21 years of my life. Like all children, I was born with a head full of imaginative thoughts, gifted to me by British Literary Greats and Explorers of Old. I spent hours spinning stories of adventures to faraway lands, transported by my magic flying carpet. As I grew, I used that creativity to emerge opportunities for those adventures without the need for a flying carpet! I created the biggest adventure of my life, ending up living in a remote Tanzanian village for many years.

Curiosity is the gift I took with me from Britain to Tanzania. A treasure trove of world views opened up before me. I reveled in the ability to live and work among the beauty of the ambiguity of a multitude of universes. It was in this magical environment that I grew the gift of heart – nurtured through the privilege of collaboration with Makange and his team, and the networked connection that the villagers of East Usambara modeled for me.

Leaving Tanzania broke my heart. There was a part of me that wished to stay and a part of me that knew it was time to leave. I was grief-stricken. One morning, as I crossed the threshold of our Project House, Makange furtively captured my first footprints of the day. Weeks later, he confessed that he’d taken my ‘footprints’ up to the mountains to his mganga. The ‘medicine’ was known to be extremely strong. Makange feared that I would do anything to return to Tanzania, even stealing or stowing away on a boat.

He didn’t administer the medicine. Yet three years later an airmail envelope plopped through the letter box and onto the floor of my London apartment. My ears swooshed with the sound of blood. Makange had died six months earlier, yet his meticulous handwriting was before me – a peculiarity of the Tanzanian postal system. As I unfolded his words, red earth sprinkled to my feet. They were my footprints!

To Canada I brought my footprints – footprints from the places I have walked and stood. Creativity and curiosity from a headspace that was born in Britain, and Collaboration and Connection from a heart that grew in Tanzania. And it is in Canada that I step into and have the guts to take a stand for Courage and Conviction. A stand that is easier to take with the gifts of those people and places that have imprinted on me.

How fitting it is that it is in Canada, the land of many people, from many places, that I begin to feel congruence between the home of my head, the home of my heart, and the home of my gut. I feel a freedom of spirit that comes from unity in multiplicity – a citizen of the universe that’s both a privilege and a responsibility. In daring to cross my identity edges, I lost my footing momentarily, yet, in the end, I find, I’m home in the world.

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[Image courtesy of Emma Kaufmann]

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