I have always loved stories about coming home. Whenever a person is away and longing to be back where he or she began, I am engaged.
It all began when I was young and read a children’s version of The Odyssey. Although I have read countless revisions of Homer’s tale, including a few where Odysseus is not quite the hero on a mission to get home after all, I still love Homer’s original version where, despite the great warrior’s adventures abroad, he really just wants to return home to his kingdom in Ithaca.
Nostos, the Greek word for homecoming, essentially means “return to the same.” For me, I seek to return every year to the small town of Wellfleet on Cape Cod, where I have been coming for a few days or weeks each summer of my life. It is not specifically where I grew up, but it’s nevertheless where I feel the greatest sense of peace and belonging.
When I am here, I keep my routine as similar from year to year as I possibly can. Wake early and walk three miles. Drink coffee. Drive to the beach, read, swim. Drive to the pond, read, swim. Play mini golf, go to the drive-in. Drive to the town center, get groceries, get ice cream, drive home. Cook, eat, read, sleep.
I can do these simple things just the way I always have because the town has not changed very much in forty years. And I continue to want to do these simple things, year after year, because they ground me; they are my return to the same and to myself. Despite the fact that I am constantly evolving, despite the fact that the world is, too, this place looks and these activities feel pretty much the same as ever.
I don’t know the costs of keeping this place so timeless, or who is responsible. And I don’t know what other experiences I may be missing by not trying something new. But I do know that I am lucky to be able to leave home and return to it, just as it was when I left.