I describe one of my favorite runes, Othala, as being all the things that come up when one thinks of their home – it is a rune embodying the gifts of the ancestors, the immovable wealth that is our land, our inheritance, our history, and our bloodlines. As I love this rune, it makes sense that I am fascinated by the concept of home, right?
I decided to head home in November, a trip to Chicago for Thanksgiving to spend time with my father and then to swing up to Madison, Wisconsin to visit my aunt and cousins. It was a trip filled with an extraordinary amount of unanticipated existential angst.
Since my mother died in March of 2015, my father has been living alone in the house on 73rd Street. I was born and raised there, and this return visit was filled with bittersweet memories.
The enormous cottonwood tree in the backyard reminded me that it has known and protected me since my birth, and let me know that it is lonely without children playing in its branches. The tree in the front yard, once a favorite spot to build snow forts, has been cut down. It was heartbreaking to continually see what once was out of the corner of my eye, laid over what remains.
The house felt tired to me. To my adult eyes, the rooms seemed impossibly small – growing up, it all seemed so much larger. I worry about my father living there alone in his late seventies, a stubborn ox of man who ignores my requests to relocate to Pittsburgh. I can’t say that I blame him – I can understand that being a fish out of water in the last years of one’s life might hold little allure. Still, I wish he would allow me to help him in a tangible way. I cannot lament his independence, though, as it is part of my inheritance: I am one in a long line of Lone Wolves.
My mother’s presence haunted me during most of the trip. Jeremie and I were staying in her old room while at my father’s house, which made it very easy to think of her constantly. I ruminated over the choices I made in the months before her death, in the years before her death, and in our general relationship. I could often feel her in the room, watching me. When I went to visit my aunt for the Thanksgiving holiday, she was in the kitchen, watching us as we tried to make up for her absence while preparing the food.
This shouldn’t surprise me, as I am very susceptible to hauntings, given my general inclinations and occupations. The tendency toward seeing what others cannot comes from my mother’s line, a gift she had in abundance, inherited from her mother and from her father’s grandmother. Seeing what others cannot flows in my blood.
Hail to the power in our roots, our home, our place, our bloodlines. Hail, Othala.