An excerpt of Kathi’s essay appeared in the November 12th edition of the Herald. Kathi Worthington is a 2014 Master of Arts in Ministry graduate of McCormick Theological Seminary, living in Colorado.
I emptied my storage cage today. I’d hauled my huge rubber maid bins up a few days ago—with the intention of starting to fill them with winter clothes and shoes, things that I hope, at last, will not be needed again till next November.
I emptied my storage cage today, and as I was dragging the TV box and luggage, the only things left, I flashed back to the end of August, 2010. My sister and I drove from Denver to Hyde Park—Molly-the-Minpin in her crate having nine kinds of a fit. We landed in front of the Kimbark building, met Diane, did the paperwork, and got the key to the apartment. We lugged all the necessities up from the car and blew up the air bed. We yelled down at a delivery guy who was bringing food in to someone else, how we could get some, too, and he got us a menu.
The movers showed up the next day, did most of the heavy lifting, then some unpacking began.
A good measure of unpacking happened before my sister returned to Denver, but there was still a good deal left. It felt lonely. I emptied boxes, discarded books (ouch!) that I had no space for, emptied my huge rubber maid bins, and schlepped stuff down to my storage cage. Over these 4ish years, I was in and out of that storage cage, for a suitcase, a widget, a thingy, a bin, a box. Getting settled, that storage bin held the chunks that wouldn’t fit in the closets or under a bed or in a corner. Things that weren’t needed regularly, but that needed to be handy.
The storage bin is a real thing, but it serves as a metaphor for my experience here as well. I came to seminary with the accouterments of life, the world, and all. I had dresses and shorts and shoes and books and art for the walls—real items, and inward possessions as well. I came to seminary with an eager desire to study, to learn, to do well, to excel. I came to seminary with a mind hungry for study, for expansion, for—well, for things that I couldn’t name. I just knew that mind and soul were hungry, and I wanted to be fed here. This experience storage bin was wide open, waiting to be filled. And so it has been.
My storage bin held a specific collection of things. These things didn’t change, they just got sifted around as I needed to get to a suitcase or a carry-on bag or stash another thing that just needed to be out of the way. The storage bin of mind and soul has been richly filled over this time.
Walking home. I walked a long distance away from home, coming here. Two full days drive-which isn’t exactly walking, but stopping to walk and water the dog, to eat, to add fuel to the tank to keep us on the road are all things that were the journey. Walking isn’t always done with the feet.
In fact, I’ve been walking home since the second I arrived in Hyde Park. To what home? There are many homes. The first walk home was settling into Hyde Park and school. I walked the neighborhood with my goofy dog, meeting long-time residents walking their dogs, and made friends. Friends with whom I’ve dined and had coffee and laughed and mourned. Friends with whom I, and two other folks who reside in Hyde Park—Dirk and my neighborhood friend Ann—will celebrate our graduations. A party thrown for us by another Hyde Park dog person. Walking home. This neighborhood has been home for four years. I walk home more than once every day—out with the dog and home again, off to class or work and home again, to Hyde Park Produce or CVS or Walgreens or Office Depot or Treasure Island or Ace Hardware or one of the libraries or book stores or restaurants and home again. A lot of walking home here.
Walking home. In classes, I discovered that I knew more than I was aware of, and that was exciting. I also discovered so much that I hadn’t yet encountered, and that has been exciting and enriching. AND, I discovered, painfully, that there were also some particular gaps in my tool kit that led to a very rough time. Missing the particular capacity necessary to do academic writing flatly dropped me on my butt, hard, gasping for breath. There are still shadows of bruising—to backside and ego.
Walking home. This experience, this falling down, also led to experiences of care, compassion, and grace that have taken my breath away. I have been blessed with affirmations of my gifts that have smoothed some of the rough spots on this walk home. Lamentation – the hard butt-drop (maybe drop kick!). Crying out, sorrow filled, walking with a hitch, but still walking. The grace and kindness of professors has softened the path beneath my feet. Uplift, encouragement, recognition, and congratulation. All these things are part of the walk.
Living, studying, working, playing, bellyaching, singing, dancing, laughing, crying, eating, sleeping, caring for one another. Community. This is the particular home that I, and we all, have occupied here. Walking home—to the home that is standing in place. Home is school, sidewalk, apartment, Trader Joe’s, Petsmart, Target, trips to Ikea and Whole Paycheck—oops, I mean Foods—for the least expensive steel cut oats in the area. All this is home, because we have become community, deeply nurtured by one another, experiencing the commonalities of shared experience. I can speak only for myself in this particular, immersed in community in such a way that every single thing I’ve done here has been communal whether in a group or with one friend. Community moves with us who live in community. In this regard, wherever we walk, we are always walking home.
And, “The Walk”. Graduation. Another walk. This walk begins another journey, the walk into a new vocation, a new location, a new way of being in the world. Completion carries with it much that is new, as new as the beginning of the walk. It feels different. My steps are different. My stride has shifted. The path is muzzier, with edges that aren’t distinct or defined.
The experience here opened with arrival, unpacking and organizing my Chicago home, integrating into the communities of living and studying, eating and thinking and talking and playing and praying, finding my way, and discovering that in community, in all the ways we have been in community, we are always walking, home and away from home. Home is a settled reality. Home is also a metaphor for things that are not concrete. Home is a thing that I now carry in my heart and the deepest part of my soul. Home is a place, home is an idea, home is family, community. But, finally, home is the essence of who we are; a concept, a reality, something that is at once tangible and ethereal.
Today I emptied my storage cage and flashed back to August, 2010 when I moved here from Denver. I unpacked all my stuff, organized my apartment, and settled into this new home. I walked down the gangway and put the things I didn’t need in my house in that storage cage. Stuff has lived in that storage cage for nearly four full years.
The circle is unbroken. This cycle is complete. I am filling the giant rubber maid bins, packing the winter things first (hoping not to need them again till November), organizing, emptying closets and cupboards, the medicine chest, the fridge. Packing, winnowing, giving stuff away, going home.
Walking home. In a vehicle. A 12′ foot Penske truck filled with the material pieces; books, garments, my kitchen. Feet work the accelerator and the brakes, so feet are involved. Walking. In a very real way, this drive is walking home. Walking home to the place I’ve lived for a very long time, taking with me essential parts of home here in Chicago.
Walking home. To the home of my heart and my lungs—crisp, thin air. High altitude. To the home where my eyes see lapis lazuli skies, endless stars scattered across the heavens, elk, mule deer, bear, coyote, fox, wolf, eagle, white pelican (no kidding! In Denver, CO!), beaver, skunk, mountain lion.
Walking home. Knowing now that home is nigh infinite in reach, in community, in love and care.
Walking home to the widest home that can be. The home of experience, of learning. The home of transformation that, once started, will never cease. My home is Hyde Park and all who dwell therein. My home is the Colorado Rockies. My home is a seamless cloth made of all the experiences and goodness and support and sorrow and disappointment and nurture and affirmation that has been life here.
When I arrived in Hyde Park, and stepped onto the McCormick campus as a student, I stepped into a new thing that began to reshape my lived reality. Leaving Hyde Park, I know that there is no place that is not home if I’m in it. Leaving for the mountains, I take back golden cords that are the light of the presence of the Divine in all this.
It turns out that leaving Colorado for Illinois to study really wasn’t leaving home; it was just moving into a different neighborhood. I left the material home of my heart—those huge mountains—but I didn’t really leave home, because wherever I am, that is home, and all the other places that are or have been home are the same place—many rooms, one home.
Walking home. A different person. Walking home to the familiar viewed by new eyes.
Walking home. Wherever we step, we are always walking home.