Welcome to 31 Days of Poetry & Writing Prompts–Day 13.
Yesterday’s poem reminded me of my first trip abroad, when I flew to Europe with my high school senior class. I’m staying with this theme one more day, at least with this poem. Bryant wrote to his friend Thomas Cole, an American landscape painter in the 1800’s.
Cole was heading to Europe for the first time, and Bryant encouraged him to retain his vision of home while enjoying the beauty of those distant skies. Enjoy!
To An American Painter Departing for Europe
by William Cullen Bryant
Thine eyes shall see the light of distant skies:
Yet, Cole! Thy heart shall bear to Europe’s strand
A living image of our own bright land,
Such as upon thy glorious canvass lies.
Lone lakes–savannahs where the bison roves–
Rocks rich with summer garlands–solemn streams–
Skies, where the desert eagle wheels and screams–
Spring bloom and autumn blaze of boundless groves.
Fair scenes shall greet thee where thou goest–fair,
But different–everywhere the trace of men,
Paths, homes, graves, ruins, from the lowest glen
To where life shrinks from the fierce Alpine air.
Gaze on them, till the tears shall dim thy sight,
But keep that earlier, wilder image bright.
It doesn’t matter how far we wander from home.
Home will always be part of us. When we go, we take it with us.
A decade ago, my parents sold their Michigan house to move down and enjoy the sunshine and grandkids in North Carolina. They’d moved into that house the summer I left for college. I’d barely even lived there.
Still, it felt like a huge loss, and I filled a journal figuring out why.
I realize my life has been a continual process of leaving Home…
I’ve always known this world is not my home, like the song we sang in church. I’m just passing through, and I’m comforted by that. But I think we settle into physical places in our hearts without much thought or intention. Or maybe it’s that they settle into us.
In remembering this place I called home, I realized it was there for so many of my young life transitions.
I had moved in before everyone else, since I was heading off to college. Mom made sure my room was painted and personalized first, because she wanted me to feel like I still had a home.
It was my soft place to land every time I needed to get away from school for the weekend or on breaks or when I simply needed to remember I’d lived a whole life before I moved away.
I recovered from exam weeks there and summered there and lost the dog of my childhood there.
So many times, I looked forward to coming home–but when I arrived, I felt like a visitor, who didn’t totally fit. I felt guilty about leaving them all behind to go live my new life and sad about the way it seemed they left me behind to live theirs.
It was all so confusing.
But I also graduated college there and celebrated my engagement there. I planned my wedding there, and opened a room full of wedding gifts in that living room. I said so many goodbyes there, and started so many new chapters.
We announced our first pregnancy there and filmed an epic reaction in that kitchen.
I brought my first baby to see snow there, to celebrate his first Christmas where he was the center of attention and all the excitement made him cry.
I brought my second baby home to that house, when we drove through the night, loading up the Tahoe with babies and puppies, two little sets of brothers we called The Boys.
My eyes have seen the light of distant skies. But I keep that earlier image bright.
Write about a home you left behind.