Nostalgia: The second in a series of blog posts on the concept of “Home”
The farther I go the closer I come
reaching the stars but it’s never the sum
of all of my days, the work that I’ve done –
Can I ever go home?
I wrote that chorus to my song “Can I Ever Go Home” while sitting on a basement floor of an apartment in Nebraska City in February. Why I didn’t sit on the couch behind me, I’ll never know – but the floor somehow seemed the appropriate space.
It was a Friday night, and I was alone, after having taken a long walk through the town.
There was a bar near to the arts center where I was a resident – a long, low, dark place slung across the sidewalk, whose floorboards could creak out tales of Wild Bill Hickok and Jesse James. It was cold outside, and when I passed the bar, I could see the friendly chatter between the patrons through the windows. The back wall of the establishment was lined with yellowing photos in dusty frames.
I’ve always loved these “hole-in-the-wall” establishments for their character, and also for the types of characters that you meet inside. If you want to learn about a region, visit the dingiest bar you can find. I yearned desperately to sit at that bar and spend the evening chatting companionably about work, the recent floods in the area, the price of corn, and whatever else was on the table. I wanted to hear the accents and retreat into a part of myself that rarely emerged in my life in Boston. Despite all that, I couldn’t bring myself to step across its threshold.
Even though I grew up in Nebraska, I had left nearly 20 years earlier. I knew when I stepped through that door, I would become just a caricature – another artist passing briefly through town, made perhaps slightly more intriguing by my Nebraskan connection.
Far more than that, however, was the sudden realization that nostalgia is a false god. I could daydream all I wanted, but I had changed through the choices I had made in my life. Sure, I could move to Nebraska City and over time become a part of that culture. But in that particular Friday evening, I would never be able to step into that bar, or anywhere else in that town, and achieve the feeling of “home” that I was seeking.
I returned to my apartment, poured a glass of wine, grabbed my mandolin and journal, and started writing. Somehow, with the dismissal of nostalgia, I was now alone but no longer lonely. As I thought about the concepts of home and belonging, I wrote the bridge to my song:
“We turn and change when we step away, can’t get back to yesterday...”
I truly hope we may all find our homes within ourselves, no matter where our lives have taken us.