Dulce Domum

I haven’t liveblogged much of the last week of the road trip, primarily because I was doing broader ribbonfarmesque things, rather than meeting readers. Expect to see some blog posts out of my travels between Omaha, NE and Jackson, WY soon, both here and over at ribbonfarm.

I am now in Vegas, and I’ll be here for a few weeks before hitting the west coast. All our stuff is currently in storage, and we are subletting a part of our in-laws’ house for a few months while we figure things out.  Arriving in Vegas felt strange. It wasn’t like coming home because it isn’t my home. Over the years, I’ve moved so many times (14 times in the last 14 years, across 5 cities, so an average of once a year) that my sense of place and home has mostly been about a few possessions that have traveled with me through all of them.  Getting used to true nomadism and living out of others’ homes for the last 3 weeks has deepened that sense of comfortable rootlessness. Now I am going to be living in limbo for about 6 months.

These thoughts reminded me of one of my favorite chapters in The Wind in the Willows, “Dulce Domum” (Sweet Home), which is about the sudden attack of homesickness that descends on one of the characters, the Mole, after he’s been on the road having adventures for way too long. Sample this chapter.  You don’t need to understand the plot or characters to appreciate this chapter. Here’s a particularly eloquent chapter.

Home! That was what they meant, those caressing appeals, those soft touches wafted through the air, those invisible little hands pulling and tugging, all one way! Why, it must be quite close by him at that moment, his old home that he had hurriedly forsaken and never sought again, that day when he first found the River! And now it was sending out its scouts and its messengers to capture him and bring him in. Since his escape on that bright morn ing he had hardly given it a thought, so absorbed had he been in his new life, in all its pleasures, its surprises, its fresh and captivating experiences. Now, with a rush of old memories, how clearly it stood up before him, in the darkness! Shabby indeed, and small and poorly furnished, and yet his, the home he had made for himself, the home he had been so happy to get back to after his day’s work. And the home had been happy with him, too, evidently, and was missing him, and wanted him back, and was telling him so, through his nose, sorrowfully, reproachfully, but with no bitterness or anger; only with plaintive reminder that it was there, and wanted him.

The call was clear, the summons was plain. He must obey it instantly, and go. “Ratty!” he called, full of joyful excitement, “hold on! Come back! I want you, quick!”

“Oh, come along, Mole, do!” replied the Rat cheerfully, still plodding along.

Please stop, Ratty!” pleaded the poor Mole, in anguish of heart. “You don’t understand! It’s my home, my old home! I’ve just come across the smell of it, and it’s close by here, really quite close. And I must go to it, I must, I must! Oh, come back, Ratty! Please, please come back!”

The Rat was by this time very far ahead, too far to hear clearly what the Mole was calling, too far to catch the sharp note of painful appeal in his voice. And he was much taken up with the weather, for he too, could smell something—something suspiciously like approaching snow.

“Mole, we mustn’t stop now, really!” he called back. “We’ll come for it to-morrow, whatever it is you’ve found. But I daren’t stop now—it’s late, and the snow’s coming on again, and I’m not sure of the way! And I want your nose, Mole, so come on quick, there’s a good fellow!” And the Rat pressed forward on his way without waiting for an answer.


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