IF I think of home, I instinctively place my hand on my heart. “Home is where the heart is.” This is our true home, deep inside us. In the body, the psyche, the soul. These days, the wider notion of home – of homeland, country, politics and power – is an issue of conflict and frequent desolation. There is division everywhere, particularly in my own homeland, the United Kingdom, whose very title – united? – is currently a mockery, and whose constitution is in Brexit crisis.
It is easy to be overwhelmed by worry in such violent and troubling times. But hope comes in unusual places – and reaching out, when our every instinct is to defend and to withdraw, can repay dividends rich in kindness and possibility.
Reiki: A Reaching Out
In the art of Reiki, we reach out (See Reiki in Leeds ).One of the most common hand positions is over and around the heart itself; raising warmth and settling anxiety. The simple act of being alongside another person, of extending the hand of friendship, calm, and of healing intent, is, in this era of grand polemic and posturing, an almost revolutionary act. Here I am it says: and here you are. Here we are together. In quietness. Where the heart is. Home.
Writing: A Reaching In
Writers, by nature, are quite solitary beasts. And when not working in my Reiki Room, I can quite frequently be found in the garden, alone: gazing at the green, or staring up into the wide blue yonder. Dreaming, dreaming, dreaming (See A Writing Life). It is tempting to do this more and more, as tensions in the world outside rise to fever pitch. But too much solipsism must be resisted. And in our search and yearning for “home”, it is only by working with others, that we can find proper solace and connection. More than ever, we need a new community to call our own, we need each other.
All Over Heimat: an Anthology of Home
A call went out, a couple of years ago, from three writers in Dortmund, Germany, for contributions to an anthology on the notion of “Heimat” – of homeland, or home – whatever that might mean to you. It was published this month. 150 writers from over 20 countries have filled its pages, responding in diverse languages – German, English, Dutch, Hungarian, Romanian, Albanian, Russian – and speaking of complex and profound things. Two of my own poems are in the collection – Homesick – and those of two colleagues, Leeds-based writer Peter Spafford, and Hungarian poet Péter Závada. All of us are grappling with these questions.What is home? Where is it to be found? And if we lose it, how can we find it again? Messages for our time. Urgent and humane. All Over Heimat
A Reclamation of Hope
Dortmund is the twin city of Leeds, where I live, and where I work as a writer and practitioner at Reiki in Leeds. After World War Two, the twinning of towns across Europe, and the wider world, was seen as a beautiful initiative: a sharing of culture and language and ideas. The foundation for peace. As time went by, the twinning initiative fell by the wayside, somehow. With the free movement of peoples, and the enlargement of the European Union, perhaps it was no longer necessary to encourage such a notion? After all, we were truly global now, weren’t we? Fewer borders, one world.
Events over the past few years have splintered such idealism. The refugee crisis. the rise of Trump – and far right populism across Europe. Brexit. Suddenly, there are walls, where there used to be bridges. But writers are good at resistance. And ‘All Over Heimat’ is pure resistance. Above all it says: reach out to each other and listen. We all have stories to share, and a common humanity to draw on.
One Million Perfumes
Some of the most rewarding work that I do, as a writer and teacher, is with refugees and asylum seekers for Leeds Playhouse. Recently I ran a workshop called ‘Finding Your Voice’ at the Refugee Council in Leeds. These workshops are unpredictable. People come from all over the world. Many of them have experienced trauma, unimaginable losses. They have come to seek refuge: to find a new home. And simple, kind, human connection. Sometimes we write poems together, as we did here. A handful of diverse individuals – from the Yemen, from Egypt – shared their own thoughts about home.
Their words, working through an Arab interpreter, were sometimes halting, sometimes sad. But oh, such sweetness evoked. Such longing and desire. This is all we want, isn’t it? To feel wanted, safe, and at home.
Family. Safety. Connection. Friends.
The smell of home is One Million Perfumes
The taste of home is delicious, spicy rice.
The sounds of traffic, car horns, animals, music,
The call to prayer.
The noisy Tuk Tuks everywhere.
And what can we see?
Sunshine. Light blue sky. A clear expansive view.
Carrying our home – always – deep in our hearts.
To make an appointment with me at the Reiki Room, go to my Reiki in Leeds page.
‘All Over Heimat’ is edited by Matthias Engels, Thomas Kade, Thorsten Trelenberg and is published by Stories and Friends. The main language of the collection is German.