It was a summer day, hot and bright. It was a Saturday. It was a Saturday in July. It was yesterday that I moved my tiny house to a location where I don’t have to worry about the law coming to knock on my door if the neighbors see a light in my window more than 30 days a year. It was yesterday that I spent the afternoon on the edge of my nerves as my tiny house went down the road to its new location. It was yesterday that I moved in full time.
For a few weeks now I’ve been slowly preparing to move into my tiny house. It is not finished, and I haven’t done a whole lot of work on it since last year. I seem to waver when it comes to cutting holes into the beautifully tight box I’ve made, so plumbing and proper wiring has yet to come. She needs siding too, but that is just a matter of time: I’m waiting for a good friend to reroof his house and ADU, so I will hungrily snatch the old roof and screw it quickly to my house. That should actually happen in the very near future. She will look so proud in her new dress! And I say she because, in Romanian, house is a feminine noun. It makes sense to me, it provides shelter, safety, and comfort, the way any womb does. And with little space to spare, custom made to my size, my tiny house is certainly more like a womb than a regular built-to-code-in-the-suburbs house.
In my mind there is a distinction between house and home, which I’m sure is understandable. A house is a house. A home is a space where basic human needs are met: shelter, safety, nourishment, sleep, and belonging. Each element is important, but more important is how they come together in the small rituals we establish within the relationship we have with our homes. Often, the home we are born in becomes the model on which we build our grown-up homes. But what happens when a childhood home is not safe? Or does not provide belonging? Or even shelter? What happens when a childhood home is physically destroyed? These are questions I ponder because my own childhood home was not safe, ever. In time I noticed an inability to connect to houses I’ve lived in for my entire life. I never felt at home.
But I think about the thousands of people leaving behind beloved homes in ruin, whether because of physical or emotional destruction, to travel across oceans and continents, wandering unwanted in the world, the refugees. What will refugee children grow up to seek in their homes? How do refugee parents find their way to a space that is safe once more? How does one form a relationship to a place they know is temporary? How can the world deny these people their basic human needs?
Feeling at home is what makes roots grow, it is what makes communities expand, and investments happen. A feeling of permanence in this ever changing world provides comfort, it heals minds and hearts. Home is essential to happiness everywhere in the world. The people who have homes know this, but are so used to having a safe place that sometimes they take it for granted. The saying “safe as houses” comes to mind. Think of the “homeless” today.