My dad did construction work and my parents were constantly splitting up and getting back together, so what that meant for my childhood was that we did a lot of moving around. I think the longest we lived in one place was only about 5 years, and for one reason or another, this pattern has continued in my adult life.
I dream about being the kind of woman that returns home to the same place, year after year, and knows every crack and crevice like the wrinkles of my own body. I dream of becoming intimately familiar with every growing thing in my yard, of whispering to the spirits of house and land and hearing them whisper back, of tracing the flights of wild geese across the sky and divining the year’s coming patterns through them. I dream of home.
But for now, I live in a rental. It’s not much, but it’s what we could afford, and it’s where we’re permitted to keep our large dog and our collection of cats. But because it’s a rental, I catch myself hesitating before I call it “home”. How can a place be home when you find yourself on a month-to-month lease? When your landlord becomes sick and you worry the next owner might evict you to make way for higher-paying tenants?
I have not introduced myself to the spirit of this home. I do not know the plants that grow, wild, in its yard, and I have only just begun (after two years) to recognize the birds that sing to me through the painted-shut windows. I have not allowed myself to settle, in large part because I am afraid of the ache that will come when I must, inevitably, leave. Here in the United States, as of 2017, just over 43 million others also rent their home, and I wonder: how many of them are Pagan? How many, like me, are too afraid to call their rentals “home” and create magical bonds with them?
I am approaching my third year in this place, and already I am wondering how much better my magical practices could have been in this past year if I had taken the time to introduce myself to the house spirit here. Would I have rested better in the evenings, found plants growing in the yard to add to my spellcraft, had more ideas slip into my mind for writing? I can’t possibly know what I missed out on.
But there is a fear growing in me that if I continue to live this way, never tethering myself (however temporarily) to a place, this feeling of rootlessness could turn me into something like a locust. Never settling for too long in one place, only there to take, and take, and take whatever I can fill myself with before I flee to the next place. That I will leave desolation and ruin behind me, and that my legacy will be dust and disappointment.
This is the end of the year, but not of me. As I live, as I breathe, I can change. And so, I look forward to 2021, and what might be.
[Ashley Nicole Hunter is a founding editor and regular contributor of ev0ke. She also serves on the board of directors of Bibliotheca Alexandrina.]