BOS 05 18 2022 doublesize
When my husband took his last sabbatical back in 1995, our family traveled to diaspora Hindu communities to learn what the religious practice was like for people who had left their homeland. A few places in Africa, there were long established traders. In most places we visited, people had come as indentured labourers when slavery ended in the British empire. In both cases, they brought their traditions of daily worship and festival celebrations to their new homelands. In places where they maintained contact with India, traditions did not shift much. In lands where they lost contact with home, traditions changed a great deal over time.

We visited a lot of places that year, seldom staying more than three weeks in any one town. Still, I remember frequently saying to our young children, "Time to go home now." That did not mean we were returning to Walters Falls. Rather it meant heading for whatever hotel we were staying in at the time. Each place became home while we stayed in that town. These rooms anchored us as we explored a new city, a new culture.

We came home from that trip to the farm, the place we lived when the children were born. For more than thirty years, almost half my life, a piece of land on Concession 10, Chatsworth was home. This was a very different experience than my childhood. My father's job kept shifting so that we moved every two and a half years.

One of my traditions to make each new place we lived feel like home was to plant a pussy willow tree. That didn't happen in Argentina where we rented a house, where a banana plant took up the corner of the yard. But when I moved to the farm, I picked up the tradition. This time I got to watch the tree grow, had the responsibility of trimming it so that it did not take over. I wonder if later owners removed some of the willows I had planted as a child.

The last two times I was in Owen Sound, I crossed paths with a man who says he is homeless. He was asking for money for food. I know that housing has gotten expensive in our area and that affordable housing is hard to come by, but this man raised my awareness. There are people who don't have a home. I cannot imagine how a person gets through their day without a home to return to, to rest in.

There was a time when I knew quite a few people with precarious living situations. I worked for a shelter for women in downtown Montreal. Because we did not house children, we did not get a lot of women fleeing violence at home, though there were a few. Rather, we would get a call from the hospital that they were discharging a woman who had no home to return to. That woman would come to us while we sorted out their welfare checks, helped them find accommodation. We would get a call from a woman who had been evicted, and they would come to us until they could find an alternative. Sometimes, one stay with us was enough to get them stabilized. Often, the same women would return. We would try again, but with each bout of homelessness, they lost ground. It was harder to regain stability.

What got me thinking about home this week was a minister's use of home as a metaphor. She prayed that Easter would be our home. This was a striking idea. I think it meant living in a context where we experience resurrection, experience the renewal of life. With the warmer temperatures and that much needed rain on Monday, the natural world feels like Easter. Even the ash trees are leafing out. The first daffodils are finished, but the alliums are in bud. The peonies are reaching upward. Apple trees are in bloom all along the road. I can say I feel at home in an Easter world these days.

That is not true in much of the world. I cannot help but think of those whose homes have been destroyed and those who have been forced from their homes to find refuge in makeshift camps. What is it like to live without an anchor and a resting place? I hope the question prompts us to do what we can for those who are forced into homelessness.

Cathy Hird lives on the traditional territory of the Saugeen Ojibway


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