Fractals by Ann Kendal

This might be my view right now if I were just a bit closer to what I consider my geographic home – the roiling clouds of winter brewing up some madness while the sun exerts its last shards of light. If I were there, standing on the edge of this photo, my feet would be firmly planted on the earth during this during this is a moment of lull. But I sit far away, with howling wind thwapping branches against my tree-height window, three stories up gazing down at random souls – perhaps neighbors — racing towards shelter in the blistering cold.

Home exists in a tiny duplex with a magical garden, where I sipped sublime gin and tonics (many) after moving across the country to start a new life. Home exists on the Amtrak platform, all noise and soot, at Penn Station after a long absence from the city I love. Home is the sweet memory of a small step-ladder and an old gas stove as I learned to de-lump gravy with my grandmother. Home is the tiny bassinet that I drag from city to city, that my daughter has not slept in for more than 12 years – but wrapped in the little bed is light, goodness and squishy toe dreams.

Home is felt in fractals, those complex moments of neurotransmitters firing at will, creating the snowflake-like patterns of a scent, glimpse or taste triggering the chemical cascade of euphoric peace; it is fleeting, yet stable, even without physical presence. It’s the repeating the algorithms we create, purposefully and accidentally, that produce the feeling of home. Fractals by nature are dynamic – and such, so is home. We often describe the feeling of home to a physical spot, most likely a house, neighborhood or town. But recently when my husband asked me where I consider home to be, I had no fast answer.

Connecting time and place, the brain adjusts to a double consciousness of being, and like the fractal, is continually evolving because the brain is a petri dish – subject to influence from forces inside and out. Add a little cardamom to the mix, and suddenly I’m walking through the door of a steamy bakery 3,000 miles from where I sit today. Home may be the tempestuous, roiling coast of my youth or perhaps it is found at a downtown corner, after a red-eye flight and a one-way plane ticket, where my adult life began. The heart finds home in both memory and longing – the joy of the past, and the hope for the future – it is this natural splintering that often leaves the head and heart out of sync, at odds, and moved to tell multiple stories. And perhaps this fractal-consciousness conundrum is merely an effect of relocating, sight-seeing, and adventuring, or maybe it is by design.

While the beauty of fractals may appear to radiate from their randomness, routine and repetition form their foundation. Home is the idea of familiar, but familiar is not happenstance – it is crafted, refined and improved over time. No one bakes a turkey the same way every Thanksgiving – we experiment, refine and evolve our process through study, deliberation, and result. While the turkey is familiar, over time, we grow to appreciate the subtle changes in each bird’s careful preparation – we may not know at that moment that we are building a new part of the repetitious fractal process, but we feel the familiar. And in each iteration, we splinter from the past, creating the latest and yet continuous idea of familiar, or home.

For half of my life, I’ve felt the pressure to decide – to choose a physical home, to settle – because that is what people should do. But my heart, it is born of the fractal process of both routine and solution – a whole heart, though one that finds beauty and comfort – and even structure, in measured chaos – and multiple homes. Once the heart has traveled, the brain is powerless to halt the fractal process.


BIO: Ann Kendall is a freelance writer, English department faculty at Heritage University and Managing Editor at Faith & Form Magazine.

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