“In my mind I’m going to Carolina.”
Not a huge fan of music that carries the twang of things emanating from south of the Mason-Dixon Line, I could never find anything wrong with this classic by James Taylor. Today, as I think back to Spring Break 2019, the song plays in my head (and on my computer) as the soundtrack to a week spent in beautiful Asheville, a week that because of where we are today seems to be more a dream than a reality.
The great irony of this song for me is that James Taylor’s reason for writing it is the exact opposite of the reason for my present obsession with it. For me it recalls a week of relaxation away from home after the whirlwind of activity that culminated in our daughter’s wedding in December of 2018. It brings to mind a week not driven by visits to amusement parks or prospective colleges. It takes me back to a week when the original meaning of vacation – to be unoccupied – actually applied.
For the 20-year-old James Taylor, it was written as a love letter to his home from the distant shores of the Balearic Islands of Formentera and Ibiza off the Mediterranean coast of Spain. Imagine being “stuck” on this Edenic archipelago and longing to be back in North Carolina. Even the opportunity of recording in Apple Studios in London with Paul McCartney on bass and George Harrison on background vocals wasn’t enough to keep Taylor from tears wept in response to missing the sight and feel of Carolina sunshine and moonshine. He was just a college-aged kid who missed his family, his dog, and the familiar surroundings of home.
Every great work of literature – even great songs – are in one way or another about home. J.R.R. Tolkien goes so far as to say that their real theme is death, the event that takes us to our true and lasting home. But leaving behind that ultimate understanding of “home,” it is important for us to never lose sight of this important lesson so close to the heart of great artists.
From the quest of Odysseus to the dream-world of Dorothy from Kansas the theme is always that of home. Adventures – and vacations – come to an end and when they do it is essential that there be a home to go to when the lights in the night clubs of Ibiza go out. There really is no place like home, even if it is a rather mundane farm or bland suburban development. Anyone who has ever been the roommate or college friend who was invited to go “home for break” with a classmate knows the importance of such gestures. It is the opposite of “any port in a storm” – it is a haven akin to “the last homely house” in Rivendell.
Under normal circumstances, during this Easter break, the last thing on the minds of the mobile and affluent of our land would be the joys of being home. By any cursory look at social media, the longing to be away and the sense of injustice felt by many of those who would normally be in places like Asheville or Ibiza needs to be tempered by the realization that there is a fairly substantial number of people in our midst who never have the option of vacation and for whom the idea of staying home is merely a dream. A look at the Catholic Worker of Cleveland Facebook page is a sobering reminder that staying home with family over Easter break isn’t such a bad thing after all.
Those of us who have homes and family are called now, more than ever, to be grateful for what we have and to do what we can for those who have neither. We are called to see the Resurrection that was celebrated on Sunday for what it can and should be in our lives – a rebirth that enlivens us with the Spirit of the Good News. And we are called to live that Sprit by making wherever we are a home for our families, our friends and neighbors, and all who need a place to call home.