Morning Milking in Switzerland

by Laura Jeliazkov | 10/4/17 2:10am

We all build up a collection of homes as we progress through life, but: what if I was to argue that that collection was composed of every space that our body has ever occupied? 

For it is true — all of our waking life we spend in this one body. And wherever we stand, wherever we sit down at a dinner table, wherever we tuck ourselves in, we are still in that body. We exist in those spaces. Even if temporarily, we inhabit those spaces. We become a part of those spaces, and they become a part of us. 

What if I was to argue that our surroundings are always familiar ones — because of the way in which we view them? It does not matter at what we may be looking — we always see through our own eyes. We interpret a frame colored by our own lives, our own experience, our own pasts and our own souls. ... The view is through a lens distinct to us. 

I have passed through many different places. A collection of hostel bunk beds, attic rooms, mattresses and dirt-ground under starry skies gathers in my memories. I think of them all as my homes, because, however temporarily, I inhabited these spaces. I was of myself, within them. Even the roads in-between — the seat on the train, the road under my sneakers, the view from the window of the bus — become a part of the collection. My existence within them is fleeting, yes, but there you have the punch line: It is the continuous line of all of these various settings that composes the overarching setting of home. We reside permanently on whatever trajectory it is that we are following through life. It remains our home no matter how the physical surroundings manifest.

I only found home when I left it. I set out to make the world larger — and it only became all the smaller. The world became smaller ... and my home became larger. My self-existence expanded with, and into, each new location. It was such freeing growth. I was not tied to anyone or anyplace but myself and what was coming next. I came to see that there is something to be made of everything; I came to see, then, that everything is what you make of it.

What if I was to argue that, in opening our eyes to this possibility, the eyes are turned not only farther outward but also more greatly inward. When we are at home within ourselves, we better understand our relative positioning in the space around us. And when this is the case, we are best able to draw the most from that space.

And so I came home from Europe to the same sensation as I had stepping out the doors of the train station in Zagreb, Croatia, in the dark, silent cocoon of early morning. The same light appears in my eyes when I say “hello” to my sister as when I shook hands for the first time with a woman in Sweden who was to become a very good friend of mine. And I stepped back onto the Dartmouth campus after two and a half years with the same anticipation as was with me when I would step into the barn for the morning milking in Switzerland.