by Hannah Jones
The first night I spent in Spain, I noticed that the sky was broad. Unbroken by indigo brushstrokes of tree-line or mountain range, you couldn’t quite wrap your arms around the magnitude of the thing. The skies in New Hampshire, home, were deep, inverted wells with stars floating on the surface, viewed from pockets of ground where we had broken up the forest with our lives. In that moment of comparison, I was suddenly struck by the thought that this paradox should come accompanied by my first wave of real homesickness. People in stories, the very ones that had set me to wandering years before I physically committed to the act of travel, were always looking to the sky for confirmation that the moon was the same as it had always been before the quest. There was no moon that first night in Spain. I looked inward for the sense of wrongness that people feel when they have been uprooted, but instead encountered a profound sense of belonging. The strangeness of my surroundings was comforting, the too-short bed beneath me, my toes pressed up against the cool white bars, more suited to me than the one I had left 3400 miles away. It struck me that I had never felt more at home than I did in a place where I had not even slept a single night of my life away.
I would encounter this feeling again in London, where I rode the metro by myself, shamelessly copying the casual ankle-crossing of trendy urbanites, and walked in the West End as the night shows let out, just to feel the surge of giddy crowds. There, the sky was rose against gray, fall and winter pushing palettes across late November’s canvas, pre-stained by coffee rings of brown-tinged light pollution. Again, the energy of new experience was upon me. I folded it mentally and recycled it on long bus rides until the luster had gone.
There were doses of “reality”, though—as my mother had insisted there must be. For example, airports gave me some sense that there were dependable things in this world and that they were only really ever necessary when they served in getting you from one mystery to another. Still, I loved watching distracted travelers, all apparently removed from a fondness for long-windowed terminals- always the same from continent to continent. Their detachment is understandable; airports are vacant places, filled up with elements that never stick. But I looked for the ones that got it, the ones with halfway smiles, looking out over the runway, hands stilled in rummaging for laptop chargers. The sky over large airports is like the sky over a city, perpetually threatening a change in the weather, hazy. If you were looking for it, there would be a metaphor for living in that.
When I came home, happily, reluctantly, everything was new and different, myself especially. Traveling had given what was familiar greater character, lent things a fresh texture. The first night was all clear skies, and the second and third as well. Routine had been given perspective and, in the process, had ceased to be routine. For a moment, for an evening, for a week, I thought that maybe steadiness and security could be pursuits for my lifetime. But last night, with nearly three months gone since my return, I stopped in coming up the walk and looked skyward. And there it was, waiting for me to give it a name, the black hole pull that results from falling in and out love. Homesickness.
Hannah Jones is an almost college student from small-town New England who hopped a plane to Spain right after high school and fell in love with the Great Wide World. Her interests include places she has never been, languages she has never heard, and books she has never read. Her nasty case of chronic wanderlust keeps her busy with just about as many adventures as she can handle (though she’ll always tell you she’s ready for one more). She can be found online @hanzesque.