A lot of you already know that I’ve gotten a job in Blacksburg, which is in southwestern Virginia. It’s a town of about 42,000 in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and is home to Virginia Tech as well as increasing number of startup-type companies, and lots of outdoor activities. The job is at NewCity, a great little interactive agency with high standards for themselves and for their clients, and a great sense of humor. I’m really excited about the job, as my all-day interview at the start of the month was quite impressive.
So that’s all really great … but it means leaving the community I’ve worked really hard to build in Rochester, particularly over the past year. Things haven’t always been great, but I’ve made a number of new friends that I hope I’ll be able to keep in touch with, and I tried a bunch of new things. I took singing lessons and got into the church musical (even if I won’t be around to see that through), helped teach a sex ed workshop for 9th graders, saw the sunrise for midsummer, went to the first weddings of my oldest friends, worked with a bunch of disadvantaged 3rd/4th graders in an after school program, took lots of pictures and had lots of other adventures. I had started making plans for lots of things with people at First Unitarian, in particular, ways to hopefully involve more of the UU-inclined Young Adults around. People at church were starting to recognize me – not just my face from singing in choir many Sunday mornings, but also my participation in other ways. I really started feeling like I was getting my “nest” that I’ve wanted for quite a while – a place that was my Home with a capital H. I even wanted to get my own Christmas tree and decorations for my apartment here this year, which I have not yet felt it was time for (it needs to be a real “nest” before it gets me to set up my own decorations)…
Now everything is just about all packed up and ready to be put in my moving pod or car and transported down South to some far-off apartment in the next few days.
Perhaps I should explain what I mean by my “nest” and why it’s so important to me.
I have the image of someday having a place that feels as snug as a little bird’s nest, with two songbirds snuggled up together in the space they built around them. That’s how I’ll really know I’ve arrived!
My understanding is that Wiccans have the idea of a Threshold, where a home meets the outside world. (I’m a bit ashamed to admit that I love the Dresden Files’ theology and draw heavily from it in this.) It protects those whose home it is, and there are a number of rituals for housewarming and strengthening the Threshold of a house. This tradition is where we get the belief that vampires and other demons cannot enter a home without an explicit invitation – the household magic inherent in a home protects from intruders. We also get the symbolism of a bride being carried over the threshold after a wedding. This past year I’ve come to the realization that having a “nest” or “sacred home” is important to me – I want to be able to take rituals like inviting a guest in and providing tea, food, and a listening ear seriously, and I like the idea that in return, my home will keep me happy and protected. Rituals like cooking, caring for people, keeping the space orderly, and admiring what your living space provides you, are the little spells that weave a strong Threshold – and hopefully it’s something that guests can feel on some level when they enter. I’ve also realized that an important part of this, one I’m still learning – a sort of responsibility that should go with having a “sacred home” – is to extend the strength of one’s Threshold to others, providing them welcome and nourishment even outside one’s walls.
So it’s a pretty scary concept to leave the place I’ve tried to tend with caring spirit (at least in the past year…) and try to set up a new Home and Threshold without any help. When I lived near here at RIT, I hated Rochester and felt completely unrooted and lost without the home I’d grown up in, and I didn’t feel like I had anywhere from which to draw strength. When I came back here after stints in Champaign and Germany, I got some really important help from Nate – an address to mail my box of stuff to, a bunch of unwanted kitchen items, and someone to touch base with a bit. I’ve lived in Rochester for six years now, all together – and even if I rejoiced to leave after the first four, there was a lot I was learning about the world of Rochester in that time. A lot which I’ve been able to draw on in coming back to the city for a new beginning. Although I do already know the people with whom I’ll be working are awesome and friendly, the idea of being rootless again and having to learn and build everything from scratch again makes me anxious (though some of that could be the stress of packing up and moving too…) about what will happen next.
It’s really been impressed upon me how much of a dent I’ve made in my community around here by the number of people I’ve had coming up to me and expressing good wishes and curiosity and giving me hugs. I felt really fulfilled by those who told me I made an impact with a fortuitously timed invitation of welcome, or by those who made sincere offers of help and welcome themselves. I definitely wouldn’t have expected such a response from many of the people who spoke up, and felt far more “seen” by others than I expected – or even would have believed a few years ago.
In any case, I will leave you with the classic words of Bilbo Baggins.
My dear People … I hope you are all enjoying yourselves as much as I am … I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve … I am going. I am leaving now. Good-bye!