Bookshelf: Homing Instincts

Homing Instincts: Early Motherhood on a Midwestern Farm by Sarah Menkedick

A good line or two:

[On being pregnant and living in a cabin with her husband in rural Ohio after years of international adventure.]

"I've descended from some imagined terrain of exceptional into which I've always placed myself, always sought to be placed, and become ordinary. And then I see that I have been ordinary all along. How, I ask myself, can the most common of all human experiences be so overwhelming? How can it be so transformative and yet banal, so widespread and so unique? I've always associated the transformative, the unique, with being jarred out of commonness, out of familiarity. With being out: exterior. But now... I range no farther than the centimeter thickness of the notebook and find transformation." p 60

Got me thinking about:

Well, fucking EVERYTHING. Because of course this is kind of my life right now. Being pregnant out in the countryside, content and present in a way that would be unrecognizable to my Thai tuk-tuk riding, Timbuktu-dwelling, twenty-something self. I underlined quite a bit of this book, felt personally seen and also imbued with empathy for others who are different from me in that way that only good books can do. 

Where Menkedick feels a gravitational pull home to Ohio after years abroad in China and Mexico and other far flung locales, neither Steven nor I are returned home by moving to the Catskills. (I'm from Brooklyn, he's from the suburbs of D.C.) We did not come here to live a bucolic dream of farm and family and simple pleasures. We came here led by my desperately hungry professional ambition to open a boutique hotel. We came here so we could literally sell that dream to others for $199 a night and in the process we, accidentally, oh so obviously, found it for ourselves. Menkedick spends a lot of good paragraphs wondering if this contented stillness she experiences in the American countryside is a narrowing of her life, if this is an artistic and moral failure, if this is settling for less, giving up. I've asked myself the same things. But with less and less frequency. Where the physical and emotional experience of pregnancy is a major catalyst for this change for her, my pregnancy finds me having already drastically changed from the person who, like Menkedick once "associated the transformative, the unique, with being jarred out of commonness, out of familiarity" and now finds it everywhere, especially nearby. I can only assume motherhood will change me further. How exactly I of course don't know yet. But I'm no longer so surprised by the prospect of change.


Outside in gloriously warm weather, my feet propped up in a laughably pregnant-woman pose. Pen in hand.

*Btw, thank you to reader Anna who emailed me to recommend this book!*