A is for Abode

If belonging is about my emotional connections to people, then abode is about my emotional connections to places.

With the way I’ve moved around since the day I was conceived in Tangiers, Morocco, born in Brussels, Belgium, lived significant chunks of time throughout three continents, and dual- citizen of the Netherlands and Canada, it would be easy for me (or you) to conclude that I’m not attached to any one place. Indeed, I hold almost no notions of nationalism or patriotism for any one state, politically or culturally (but not that I would ever betray the countries that gave me citizenship).

I am a true global citizen in my belief that humans are one race inhabiting our one home, our one planet.

And there you have it, our planet is the top-level abode that I care about. I’m heartbroken at how we have trashed this only home we all share, actively not only destroying it and the animals through our extractive and other careless/harmful actions but still, after all the evidence, rushing blindly towards our own extinction.

In the words of my Filipino friends at the Carl Jung Circle Center, the Earth is our Kapwa (soul friend with whom we share space).

The goal of life is living in agreement with nature.

Zeno, Greek philosopher

Abode is the second prompt in The Eight Days of New Year BALANCE exercise. This exercise, as my friend Joan puts it, is not about setting resolutions, but “to ‘getting a fix on where you are’ to positively frame and describe the ‘whole’ of and all that matters to you.”

So here I go…

As I listen to Joan’s short video explaining the prompt, I sit on our couch in our modest yet cozy living room. I look around and appreciate the many delightful souvenirs my honey and I collected on our travels, arts and crafts that don’t fail to transport me back to those wonderful places and people visited. It’s always been vital to me that my home, whether temporary or longer-term, is cozy, comfortable, and welcoming to any visitor(s).

The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the alms-house as brightly as from the rich man’s abode…

Henry David Thoreau (Walden)

In the 26 years we’ve lived in Manila, we’ve rented six abodes. Each time we were compelled to find a new one, we were conscious of our first impression when walking in the front door of any house we were looking at. I call it intuitive fengshui*—our belief that we can feel the energy of a place. In all but one house (where we lived only 11 months), we knew the instant we opened the door to feel good energy that it was “our” new place. Making a home out of a house after that was easy.

By its simplest definition, an abode is the place where one lives. I’ve covered my attachment to the planet and to the spaces we’ve lived in. I’ve described them both as my homes.

Just like I feel culturally at home nowhere and everywhere at the same time (see yesterday’s post), in nations I also feel at home both nowhere and everywhere (and the two are likely intertwined). I’ve felt equally at ease in any of the eight countries I’ve lived in for a year or more. I’m just so grateful my family and I have had the freedom to make those choices and moves. It’s made for a colorful life. One that few others can really relate to.

Our abode in this world is transitory, our life therein is but a loan… Our breaths are numbered and our indolence is manifest.

Abu Bakr

There’s one more interesting “place” story that surprised even me at the time. In May of 1985, I found myself on a slow (overnight) boat to China from Hong Kong. When I landed in Guangzhou early the next morning, I was overwhelmed with a full-bodied sense that I had “come home.”

This feeling not only surprised me, and stayed with me, but to this day I can’t explain it. I didn’t, and don’t, exclusively connect with Chinese people or their culture any more than with others; and my experience living, working, and traveling in China over the next three decades affirmed my general belief that there are good and not good people everywhere. And yet, on that morning I fell in love with something… a place?

And so, I—or we—might ask, is home or abode really a place… or a feeling?

Not many months later I found my true abode in the arms of my China-born honey and we’ve made our homes together ever since.

Kindness is my prayer. Humanity is my abode.

Debasish Mridha

What does the word abode bring up for you?

Tomorrow I’ll tackle L for…. ?

PS. *Fengshui is an ancient Chinese system linking one’s environment with one’s destiny. You can read my honey’s fascinating personal fengshui stories, including his ties to his birth and ancestral village, in his memoir: How My Brother Got Married after He Died.


  • Maybe both A from Abode and the B of Belonging have a strong connection with “we’re in it alone”?

    I probably didn’t travel as much as you did but I have seen quite a bit of the world. Lived in different places for extended periods of time. What attracts me in this lifestyle is the fact that it allows me to be myself more easily without having to give in to the social norms [of that place]. What would appear as weird in my place of origin is now explained by the fact that I am an alien. If I don’t like to sing, dance, sunbath, drink, do drugs, party or whatever… well we don’t do those things where I come from.
    This is also the reason why I love mega cities. I can easily disappear among the countless other weirdos you usually find in those big cities. It is impossible to do this in a small village or city where everybody knows everyone. So yes, I thrive in city like New York, Manila, Hong Kong, Paris, London, Tokyo, Jakarta…
    I can be alone, disappear or not. My choice.

    I refuse to belong to any place or group. I will not wear their shirts, their logo, follow their rules and customs. I respect those places and people but I don’t belong to them.
    I don’t even belong to my home city as after 20 years of absence, I don’t belong there either. I don’t consider myself a “citizen of the world” . I am just another weirdo that ended in a far away place that could have been any other place in this world.

    With age I don’t even enjoy travel as much anymore. I have the feeling I have seen enough. The feeling of deja-vu. Everything is about money and with tourism many places lost their authenticity. Do I need another trip to the Machu Picchu or travel again to Borobudur? My father, a very wise man, once told me to never go back to places where I fell in love with (and those are a lot of places in the world). I would for sure be disappointed.

    I now have the tendency of looking more inwards, to focus more on my inner world. So much to discover there. I don’t need the thrills of the outside world as much as before. I am home. Not in my abode, not where I belong but, in a place, where I feel happy.

    A bit out of line but since we touched the topic of marriage very briefly in a private message, I recently read the following that exactly expresses my feelings about it and is in fact connected to the above.

    “Let there be spaces in your togetherness and let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”
    ― Khalil Gibran

    • Sidney, I am truly thrilled that my posts are inspiring you to share your own experiences, thoughts, and feelings. We are more the same than different.

      Let me start with my response to the Gibran quote: it encapsulates *exactly* how both my honey and I see–and LIVE–our soul connection. We are each fiercely independent yet giving to each other deep, profound love and caring. I have gifted that quote to various newlyweds over the decades. And yes, it fits the topics and they are all connected.

      About travels, oh yes, yes, to all of it. What you say reminds me of quote I posted on FB about a decade ago from a favorite travel book “Blue Highways” by William Least Heat-Moon: “When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.”

      While I may be less of a loner than you, Sidney, indeed the inner journey calls more these days. You (and my honey) are among the rare men I know who truly feel “bien dans sa peau.”

      And I finish with another Khalil Gibran quote for you: “In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.” 💜🙏💜

  • I love your take on these prompts as we go through them! As you know in my explainers, I’ve had a similar contemplative think on each of them, but tend to write out the pedantic lists of where I need or do re-mind myself to think further: more ‘talk to the roofer’ than ‘roof over my head’ even as my mind has me ‘living so often in the car’!

    I further love how your blogs are souvenirs of travels and times and connections-made. For so many of my years on the planet as the “Joan” I am, I’ve read books that connect me to my abode/s. Where my mind is and goes when reading is and has been a balm, and respite through reading parallels where imagination can take me…I do love a good science fiction read that has me live elsewhere for a while (Dune was fantastic when I was a teenager!). Taking time to reminisce and connections with friends about more current matters has been my ‘reading these days’; and it is precious beyond measure. The measures we so often forget to take are the ones promoted and prompted so well by the 8 Days exercise. I have benefitted so well from it and am so glad to have you on that journey with me this year!

    I promised myself to make an escape from my current-every-day to read Lordson’s book during this quieter time and will make that happen in the next days. I can’t wait!

    • Joan, as you can see, I’m taking a more liberal approach to “what does this word bring up?” than an inventory. I was taught to do mindmaps to open new connections in the brain, starting with a prompt in the center, and that’s the way I started, even if only in my mind. Hmmm… maybe I’ll do this for real for the next prompt.

      Although I read a lot, I lack your imagination to really “place” me in a new environment described in a book. I seldom read sci fi or fantasy. Maybe why I feel the urge to travel for real.

      And yes, let’s keep going with what feels right, the flow of things. (Enjoy the book! Let me–or the world–know what you think…) 🌸🙏🌸

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