The great thing about traveling is being in an unfamiliar environment where you see and experience things you don’t normally see at home.
So one would think that the good thing about coming home would be the familiarity and the comfort and convenience found there. Which is why I was surprised to find that when I came home, things actually looked different.
When you open the door to a house, the first thing you might notice is the home’s unique smell. Sometimes it’s a good smell, like cinnamon or cookies. Other times, it’s an old smell or a wet dog smell, which is bad or good, depending on how you feel about old things and wet dogs. When I walked into my house, it just smelled stale.
I started walking up the wood stairs, my foot steps echoing, as though the house was empty. Since it is actually filled with furniture and things, and I’ve walked into my house a million times and never noticed an echo, this was weird. And as I walked across the wood floor in the living room and kitchen, the boards actually creaked. Weird again.
I’m sure there’s some sort of scientific reason for this – the house drying out because no one is running water, cooking, or breathing – but let me go with my more “woo woo” theory. I think that a house that hasn’t been lived in for awhile sounds and feels empty, no matter how much stuff is inside it, because you need people to give the house a soul.
There’s one other thing that my house needs — and that’s dogs.
As soon as I put down my suitcase, I was grabbing my keys to go pickup Java and Latte from the kennel. Once we were at the kennel and I settled my bill, one of the employees brought my two dogs into the lobby. They looked a little dazed and confused, unsure of how to react to Steve’s and my sudden appearance on the scene. But when we went out to my Mini Cooper and I started opening the hatch to let the dogs jump into the back, they made a dash for the car before I had a chance to fully open it. Java bumped her head, but didn’t seem to notice.
In the car, they were enthusiastically on familiar ground. Driving home, Latte alternated between sniffing the air coming through the car window, and putting her head between the front seats for a reassuring pat. Java simply rested her head on Steve’s shoulder.
When we got back home, I let the dogs out into the backyard, where they checked every corner for familiar and unfamiliar scents. I started unpacking, sorting clothes to throw into the wash, and taking a very welcome shower.
The house was no longer echoing or creaking.
We took Java and Latte on a walk to Kings Island. It’s our usual dog walk – out towards and then along the Mississippi River. I often long for another route, something new to see – I want to experience a feeling of discovery and adventure. But somehow, on this walk, I felt that. Everything looked fresh to my eyes. I started to feel how lucky I was to have the river so close by and be able to take walks like these. No, it wasn’t as cool as some of the walking paths in Minneapolis or St. Paul, but it was home.
And the dogs? They never see this walk as the same-old-same-old. Every time they take a walk, there are different smells, different people, different dogs and different squirrels to see. Every walk is a unique experience — lived without any expectation of how it should be or what it should include.
Once again, my dogs have taught me something valuable… Look with fresh eyes at where you are, even if it’s the same old place you were yesterday, not expecting it to be different, but not assuming it will be the same. Any maybe it is never the same — not because “it” has changed but because you have.