I read Herman Hesse’s Wandering and wanted to highlight the whole thing. There are very few passages with which I could not identify. If you have a wanderlust, if you are on a journey with no particular destination, or find no great satisfaction with staying or going – a certain anguish in either prospect, then you will love Wandering.
When your soul wants to settle, but your mind and body keep wandering, it can be upsetting for those who don’t consider themselves to be peripatetic. I’ve always wanted that settled idea of Home, but life has taken me everywhere but there. Not always – there have been short periods where I found peace and contentment in staying put in a place I loved surrounded by people I love. But then the wanderlust appears for various reasons, and I have to go, even though I know not where, for how long, or even why. My soul screams, “Stay! What you need is right here!” But my mind keeps searching for the Other Place. My mind promises, “It’s out there; you just have to find it. Keep looking!” But not everyone’s mind shouts this.
My friend Buddy (an iconic New Orleanian whom everyone knows as Little Buddy) has never had to search. I worked with him when I was in college at a record store (back in the vinyl days) called Mushroom. It was my dream job – surrounded by music all the time, working with a goofy cast of characters – but I scurried away from New Orleans as soon as I graduated college (surprise) to marry my sweetheart and create a new life for myself far from the city of so much of my sorrow. I didn’t see Buddy again until the year I flew into New Orleans for my daughter’s christening at St. Louis Cathedral – he was rolling in from a night in the Quarter while I was waiting outside the cathedral for Mass to start. That was the last time I heard from him until he found me on this blog. I asked him, “Are you still in Nola?” He responded, “I’m still in New Orleans. I can’t imagine being anywhere else!” exclamation point and all. Recently, we met in the Quarter when I was visiting my sisters. He hasn’t changed in thirty years, and I suppose I haven’t either. He has always been in his happy place and I’m still wandering.
Hesse’s words remind me, however, that “Home” is a place not to leave or return to; rather, “Home is within you or home is nowhere at all.” So if Home eludes you, then you are looking in the wrong place. I know this, I do! But I don’t believe it! How can you not believe something you know to be true! This is the greatest paradox and one I cannot escape. To make matters worse, Hesse reminds me that there exists a certain sentimentality that holds hands with the past, to that place that you used to call Home, to that life you used to live. Reality is obfuscated by the present vantage of long gone days. The perfection of the past is an illusion. I also know this to be true, and still I don’t believe it.
Home really was perfect, wasn’t it?
No, it wasn’t. Except that it was. So I keep searching.
This is what it’s like to be me.