For many years, I was like Dorothy, always caught up in some tornado or other and getting let off in all sorts of exotic places. Oh, I suppose I had choices, but it seemed that I could not resist.
I worked on the Bering Sea throughout the Aleutian Chain, and in Valdez, Alaska, after the Exxon Valdez oil spill. I travelled through the pirate-infested South China Sea to Borneo and Singapore. I’ve seen Japan, the Philippines, Thailand and Guam.
Like Dorothy fighting the guards at the witch’s palace, I fought with the cabbies and street vendors of Bangkok. The Wicked Witch of the West was a customs agent who did not want me to leave his country with the infant I was escorting. The Good Witch, Glinda turned up everywhere, helping me find my way when I was too tired or confused to help myself.
A few years ago, I bought a house with all intentions of settling down. I became involved in my community, had some great friendships and held an 8-5 job. I was ready to paint, plant and watch videos. But the opportunity arose to return to India. So off I went, living with the spiders that even Dorothy never dreamed of. I slept with scorpions and lived through monsoon season, political unrest and curfew. Cholera and the plague surrounded me.
It was in this place and time that I came to understand a bit about myself and this world of mine. I became grateful for the place I live. I missed my home, family and friends. I missed the spring and all the things one misses when one is away from home. But I’d never really missed them before. I had always wanted adventure in my life and never understood that adventure lives in my heart. This is when I shut my eyes, clicked my heels three times and said, “There’s no place like Home, there’s no place like Home, there’s no place like Home.”
After travelling all over this world, I’ve come to learn something of adventure. Adventure is driving the same drive to work every morning, seeing something different each time. Adventure is watching my nieces and nephews grow up, and trying to become more like them. It’s being with the same man for some years and learning the good and the not so good –– learning to love him not in spite of his defects, but because of them. Adventure is changing my own defects to get along better in this world. Adventure is learning to find the magic in each day, and being grateful for it.
Redecorating my home is a longer-lasting thrill than any shopping spree in New Delhi or Bangkok. A rototiller is a more challenging ride than any 747. Challenge is what adventure is all about. The challenge of finding the good instead of focusing on the bad, of being grateful for what I have instead of pining for what I think I want. Challenge is changing the things I can change, and leaving the rest alone.
Today, the Lion exists in the people of this community who make positive changes. They don’t know how brave they are. The Scarecrow and Tin Man show up in the grocery store or the post office. I see a bit of each of them in you and in me. My Nikes are my ruby slippers, transporting me through the forests and along the beaches of Oregon. Home is Oz.
I now know, deep in my heart, that Dorothy was right. There’s no place like Home.
Published in the Oregonian’s First Person Singular column, 25th of February, 1996