A metaphor stuffed to bursting with meanings: perhaps a simple, airy place of light and warmth, smelling of fresh coffee and frying bacon. A house redolent with history and knocking pipes and dirty socks that the boy has left on the floor of the bathroom again. Walls and windows and roof and floor, timber and stucco and drywall, leaves in the gutter and chicken in the pot. Built with dreams and prayers and sweat and tears. Made of straw or sticks or brick or bark or tule rushes. Where the cat must be let out and then in and then out already. And it is your responsibility to clean up the messes made. Ah—but there’s the rub! It is a bigger place than an enclosure for eating and sleeping and cable TV: beyond the curb, behold the brook and the berm and the village and the valley, the marsh and the mountain and the mighty oak with its sprawling limbs. All this your responsibility, to take care. The raw material for sculptors and poets and composers of national anthems.
Home might be a house in downtown San Jose, Calif., if you happen to be a member of Team California, SCU’s hardy band of solar decathletes. For the structure they built—the lovely, mind-bending Refract House—is slated to become a showcase for green living across the street from City Hall.
Home might have once been up in Saratoga, with peach and plum trees in the backyard, a house where your mother taught you to cook ravioli and focaccia and polenta cake. Now you have a home of your own in the Central Valley and children of your own and a published cookbook, too.
Home might be right here in the Bay Area—as it has been for many generations of Native Americans—though it’s not the place it was. And, if you’re one of the Ohlone people, odds are that you can’t legally call it your home because, as far as the federal government is concerned, you’re not a recognized tribe.
Home might just be the beginning of your responsibilities, followed by land and security, with 225,000 people working for you and the safety of a nation, control of its borders, and the moral weight of administering immigration policies resting a mighty burden on your shoulders.
One place where it feels like coming home might be this blessed University: where the heart is—intellectual and spiritual—even, perhaps, the place where you met the love of your life.
Another place you call home could be in Colombia, a nation that descended into chaos amid drug wars but now seems to be emerging from the worst.
And home might be, horrifically, a place beset by tragedy once again: when the shaking earth brings houses tumbling down and the scale of devastation and human tragedy is staggering to comprehend, as it is in Haiti in the aftermath of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake on Jan. 12. From the Mission campus, help and prayers have gone to the wounded and suffering and the families in need. Tens of thousands died. Near the end of January, word reached us that among them was Ericka Chambers Norman J.D. ’97, who was in Haiti working with the United Nations. You’ll find an in memoriam tribute to her here. We will share more news from Haiti in the next issue of this magazine.
Keep the faith,
Steven Boyd Saum