Strange Lands


As a kid in the Seventies I was obsessed, like most of my age group, with J. R. R. Tolkein’s world of hobbits, elves, goblins and other evil forces as thinly veiled references to the real-life world conflicts experienced by the author and his generation. While I gobbled up all three books that compose The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the very dense Silmarillion, my favorite has always been The Hobbit, with its homey descriptions of hobbit dwellings and lifestyle as well as the humble but hospitable sanctuaries offered during the travelers’ perilous journeys through strange, magical lands.

I took great comfort in the hobbit habits of generosity and good will when odd strangers showed up at the door, even while they ate and drank you out of house and home. Bilbo may have had his misgivings, but he was determined to uphold his role as a good steward to his guests. In the age of technology, I’ve continued to indulge my childhood longings by binging on Instagram images of the amazing Hobbiton movie set in New Zealand and by appreciating the popularity of tiny homes, tree houses and the whole Hygge movement on the Internet.

I’ve always been drawn to creating artful, comforting and inviting sanctuaries in the many rooms, apartments and homes I’ve lived in. I feel at home in funky neighborhoods with more charm than affluence. Recently I’ve become obsessed with a local neighborhood of colorfully painted old bungalows sporting messy porches with fat felines and yards full of crazy art and wildly overgrown flowerbeds, a well-loved community garden and a little park with a children’s storytime theme sponsored by the city’s public library.

On Sundays my small family walks through these peaceful streets and I find myself back in the Shire, wishing that I wouldn’t have to go back to the dire news stories and inescapable violence broadcast over the media. I want my own modest house to be magically transformed into one of these funky oases that have taken decades to create in that older part of town. I wonder if, like Bilbo Baggins, my purpose is to leave for parts unknown or to remain in my hobbit world, tending a garden and keeping the hearth fire lit for afternoon tea and the other daily rituals that become so sacred in a world at war.

I used to scour Tolkein’s maps of Middle Earth on his inside book covers and follow the heroes’ journey, having the luxury of knowing what lies ahead. Nowadays, I stand at the highest point in my county, hoping to see the path clearly marked in these troubled times but the horizon and my fate are hidden from me. Am I to stay put and keep the home fires burning? Or will I be called back on the road to fight a formidable foe? Only time (and the next chapter) will tell.

In the meantime, I stock my pantry for weary travelers, and plan my next garden.

6 thoughts on “Strange Lands

  1. I love this meditation, and for many reasons. “Home” is one of our most revered concepts and hospitality a global value. I fear we’ve forgotten. Wondering where we go is part of being home, I think — ironically. Is home wherever we are, and do we take it with us? Or is it a particular place where we must be? Or is all of life about finding out? Finding a place that fits is not easy. Sounds as though you have, so congratulations!

    1. May we all find a place to belong at some point in our lives. Even if we lose it for whatever reason, it’s better to have known “home” than never to have experienced it at all. Taking it one day at a time. Hope you are safe and well in your home, Maureen.

  2. karuni604

    another really nice piece of writing, you have certainly done a lot of wandering already. And it has been fun to follow.BTW, i never told you that youare a talented painter, so her i go. You are a talented painter.  love Karuni

    1. Thank you for continuing to read my sporadic posts, Karuni. I really appreciate the mention about my paintings. I hope to return to painting one of these days. Hope you are safe and well, my friend.

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