Everyone I've met here has been a bonfire of hospitality - give them your hesitation and shyness, and it'll only feed their flames as they sit you down and make you one of their group, and invite you to share the warmth. And then, they start cooking hamburgers over a charcoal grill, nestled amongst the lattice and lemon trees, and drinks are poured and songs are sung and neighbours drop by to say hello and tell you about the ghosts that live in this hundred-year-old house.
It's almost enough to make you want to move.
And yet... there's still something about seeing stars and stripes everywhere, and signs imploring you to vote for judges and sheriffs, and the bewilderment that debit cards create in cashier. These aren't bad things, but they do constantly remind me that this isn't home.
This isn't a surprise, really. Almost every trip can be expressed in the ways in which you didn't feel at home. The early Buddhist philosophers said that trying to describe Zen was like a fish trying to describe water. Much like water is home to a fish, it's similarly difficult to describe what home means to us, until we leave it.
Of course, unlike the fish, we can and do leave home, and even change it. On some moves between cities, I've been able to declare myself "home" after just a few days. I'd like to see a fish do that.
Perhaps one of the reasons I'm reflecting on what it means to be home is that people here in the Bay Area have an even stronger attachment to theirs than I do. Zipping amongst the different cities in the Bay Area (San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, El Cerrito, Albany, etc., etc.), I've noticed that they all seem to have to their assigned roles within this system, even though to an outsider the difference is almost negligible.
And within this world, where they have everything they need, it seems harder for them to want anything else. Or rather, any[i]where[/i] else. I realise this is a crass overgeneralisation, but it seems like it's a considerable excursion for someone from Berkeley to brave a half-hour BART ride to San Francisco. Only twenty kilometres separate the two, but there may as well be an ocean between them. (Although, in all fairness, there technically *is* an ocean between them.)
If I ever moved here, I might lose my zeal for road trips, and for travel, and that is something that would take away from the
very heart of me. So yes, I will be glad to be home, if only so that I may leave it again. That, after all, is how I know that I'm home.
See you soon, Canada.