We were sitting in an African restaurant in Paris to which neither one of us had been to before. Lunch was 2 hours on a Friday. We were done eating, sun rays were dancing on the table upon the arrival of spring. Conversation was sweet, conversation was carrying us beyond how we didn’t know each other that well.
What is home for you, he asked. Do you feel like you have many homes?
Home, I said, can be many different things.
Home can be a person. He is my home. She is my home. And that person. And this person. All of them are home to different parts of me. I have given them something of me, which they keep, and for that they will always be a home. Even the ones that I don’t speak to anymore or see anymore, for that part of me that they kept for that moment in time, they are home.
When it comes to America, home is people too, for all the Americans in my life that I love, for the two American families I had away from home, where I was fed, cared for, and loved as if I was their child. But more importantly, when it comes to America, home is culture. I was schooled in American culture for 9 years, I was reading American authors when I was 13. America is the way I think, America is the way I talk, America is the way I see the world. America is deeper in me than most other things in life. It never uprooted and replaced any of my Turkish sides, but it became the shortest pathway, the pathway I kept repeating.
When it comes to Turkey, home is people too, the friends and family spread to different parts of that country. Home is the republic, the Turkish one. Home is nationality, home is how I say, with pride, I am Turkish, and then I watch the surprise in their eyes as they try to place me. But more importantly, when it comes to Turkey, home is land. Home is Anatolia, home is the language, and how we don’t say Turkey when we talk about Turkey, and how we say Anatolia. Home is that which has a name, and the land of Turkey has a name: Anatolia.
A child living in Turkey will learn quickly the many civilizations that lived there before her. The school will school it into her. She will learn it further while eating dinner, the evening news will casually announce they were digging a tunnel under the Bosphorus and they accidentally found some ruins - again. She will learn it from the name of her city too, Istanbul, for which songs were written and battles were fought, she will learn it from the Bosphorus, which is a living breathing thing on its own. When it comes to Turkey, home is land, but not in the permanent sense of the word. Home is land in the sense that it is a land that made way for passage, and they all passed through, even the British who migrated from Göbeklitepe to Stonehenge, even the British who don’t want to accept they didn’t drop out of the sky onto that island.
When it comes to Turkey, home is a deeper understanding of the Earth, of the grounds on which we walk, the shape that is round, that keeps turning and turning. Home is the wisdom I find in all people who ever lived on that land, to the extent that sometimes when I meet a very wise person I wonder if they are from Anatolia. Home is the mix of feelings that find root in this wisdom, the hospitality and the tolerance we take pride in and put on display. Home is Rumi saying “Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn't matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again , come , come.”
Home is an ancient knowledge, home is the knowledge of what is ancient. Home is the banter we engage in - is Rumi Turkish or Iranian, is yoghurt Turkish or Greek, is it raki or ouzo. Ultimately, home is knowing that there are subcultures within cultures, that there are sublands within lands. Home to my father was the northwest, the culture of which he embodied to every minute detail, his stubborn blood, his ingenious methods, the life energy pulsating through him. Home to my mother is the Aegean coast, well a bit inland from the coast, where the best fish still comes from a lake, but the sea is nearby nonetheless, and knowing that is enough to change the air. Home is how she eats vegetables with fervor, home is how she understands life is not that serious, and life is love, even in the most serious moments. Home could be Iraq and Syria if you go southeast, home could even be Russia if you go northeast. Home is richness, even when we don’t allow richness like when we don't allow Kurdish. Home is being neighbors, taking and borrowing, failing and succeeding, knowing that all poetry, all yoghurt and all alcohol belongs to all of us in the end. And the land will belong to no one.
And then, when it comes to France, home is a city, first and foremost. Home is Paris, which carried many dreams for me, which carried my independence, my adulthood, my womanhood even maybe. Paris which gave me my art, my ideas, my expansion, just by the sheer beauty of it. Home is the republic, the French one, which took care of me, as it takes care of people almost all the time, but I of course didn’t know that. It is a sense of being a foreigner, which I have felt since 14, the first time I stayed in a foreign country for an extended period of time. I have been a foreigner since then, everywhere I go, and I have found a home in that too.
When it comes to France, home is also Jaillans. A cute French village of 50 houses of which I am sure you’ve never have heard of. Home is Jaillans because that Jaillans is where Mami and Papi are, and the children they gave birth to, and the children they gave birth to, one of which ended up loving me better than any men that came before. Home is the region, the Southeast of France, and specifically La Drome, where this family lived for generations, and the hippies I keep hearing about, that are nearby, hiding between rivers and mountains on some slopes somewhere, making democratic decisions with open votes, or just walking around naked all day, I don’t really know.
And when it comes to me... What is home when it comes to me? When I sit down to meditate, when I first find my anchor, when I find a sweet simple presence in that moment, right there and then, then eventually, when I put my hand on my heart, I start with someone I love and I say, may he be healthy, may he be happy, may he be safe, may he be loved, and then I think of myself and I say, may I be healthy, may I be happy, may I be safe, may I be loved, and then, when I think of all the people I love, I am annoyed by, I am neutral toward, when I think of all the animals, all the plants, of all the beings in this world, and I cover the planet with a loving energy that expands from my chest in all directions, left and right, up and down, front and back, and I lose track of the limits of my own being, and I feel I am bigger and more expansive than I ever thought I was - what am I then? What is home then?
The universe, I think. As far as it goes, you know, with the black holes and everything.
Photo by Andy Holmes on Unsplash