What does it really mean to come home? Traffic projections tell us that this holiday season more people than ever will head home, possibly breaking a record for pre-Christmas travel. People across Europe lately find themselves stranded in airports from freak snowstorms, sleeping on the floor for days just trying to get where they wanted to go. Yet there are a gaggle of “funny” movies about going home for the holidays, especially Christmas, that depict the annual pilgrimage as nothing short of a personal horror. Sneering, taunting, insensitivity all play roles in such films and you have to wonder why anyone would ever go home to families like these. The answer of course is that they likely wouldn’t and the whole thing is just a device of “entertainment”. Sure, we laugh, but sometimes it’s an uncomfortable snicker. We recognize in them the subtle torture that only your loved ones can mete out.
Animals go home because they have to. It’s instinct and survival. Increasingly scientists are discovering that at some point living things across the spectrum from insect to mammal migrate from where they moved, returning to their original birthplace. Sometimes they go to breed, sometimes to die. It’s just built in. There is a lot unknown about animal interactions and in my sophomoric mind I wonder whether the outliers get made fun of when they turn back up with something new and different about them. In people, sometimes just maturing becomes rich fodder for family members to pick at, never mind a funny haircut or strange girlfriend. Good times!
Mostly animals hunker down in winter, either hibernating or limiting their appearances to warmer winter days. The ones with really nice winter coats get around well, but even they need somewhere snug to see out a storm. Around here it’s pretty easy to see where our animal friends are hanging out. Because Hill-Stead’s grounds are still to my mind underused given the treasure they are, it’s a piece of cake to take a short walk and see deer tracks, coyote, our “famous” mink and loads of other creatures’ travels through snow and across the pond. You may even see one of the critters themselves.
But these darkest days of winter and indeed other dismal times, have a way of making us focus inward. Illness, loss, upheaval, have a way of isolating us whether or not we are even aware of it. To the best of my knowledge animals don’t have the luxury of introspection. They have to get on with it, just manage or pay the highest price. In contrast to us, they don’t go home for holidays or because they are worried and careworn. They can’t take umbrage at the modern world, hop on a train and go home to warm welcome and hot soup. It’s down the rabbit hole for them and hope for the best.
Wherever you go, or if you go anywhere at all, everyone here at Hill-Stead hopes you find yourself someplace cozy and restful.
Happy Holidays, and I’ll see you on the trails,