The Heart of The Heel, Part II: Recycling Life Thematics

The Heart of The Heel: Recycling Life Thematics

Isabella in the belly at the top of Calomini in Garfagnana, 2005

Isabella in the belly at the top of Calomini in Garfagnana, 2005

13 years ago, I returned to Redlands from the mountains of Lucca Province to have my first child. The rather last minute decision to make that move, in my third trimester, is a story in itself. For the sake of this story, it is important to know is that the history of Isabella’s birth was written from the heart and started with a heaviness, literally, thrusting me toward home.

Needless to say, just months into motherhood I was well into discovering that leaving Italy behind was not a restful position. I knew I would need to build a bridge across high seas to tighten the architecture of an expansive house, now founded in two separate worlds.  

Major construction was in order if I were to truly be at home. But at the time, my compass was disabled. For all the love in me that longed to do right for myself and my family - a composition of blood born, bred, and belonging to two distant lands - I could not manage to sketch out a plan of any sort that pointed us all home.

Mapless and fuming with impulses of evacuation, there was nothing to do but to drift. Looking back now, I wonder lovingly, at how that deficit of direction was the most valuable gift of all.

One never reaches home,’ she said. ‘But where paths that have an affinity for each other intersect, the whole world looks like home, for a time.
— Hermann Hesse
Hilaree’s Outposts, 2005-Present

Hilaree’s Outposts, 2005-Present

The endeavor of anchoring down abroad in my twenties, set me adrift in my thirties. Traveling Native was rousing amid the onset of motherhood and as I stood stirring pots of rootlessness in Redlands, Hilaree was digging in the dirt of her dreams.

A lifelong passion for non-human animals inspired her to a series of deployments in South Africa and Namibia where she nurtured and was nurtured by wild animals who were rehabilitating from injury or abandonment. Undoubtedly, the sheer arrival on African earth was a homecoming to her endemic craving for a place she had never known but that spoke directly to her sense of home. The field work she immersed herself in at C.A.R.E. Centre for Animal Rehabilitation & Education and the Harnas Wildlife Foundation was a pivot point into graduate studies and further into the discipline of analyzing primate behavior.

Then, as life will often have it, love entered, and the most crucial pivot of all landed her due north of her dreamed-of destination, in the heart of the heel of the boot, La Puglia.

And just like that - the house expands. The work of being at home is now a lifelong project that involves the ongoing practice of take-off, landing, longing, and embracing the air space in between that allows for, and demands, a durable infrastructure of love.

Hilaree and Gianluca

In this story about Hilaree, there is a familiar thread of life thematics that recycles and reteaches. It’s almost as if the same questions keep posing before us, tauntingly:

How do we come home and remain true to what is true?

After pounding out miles in the opposite direction to test the expansive properties of a place called home... What if we find that the unknown embraces us in a way that home never could?

Are we then called to a life of wandering?

In the effort of establishing an inner home base, it seems so necessary to depart, to seek, and even to forget. And then, like greedy fools we return with our findings to learn we have created a greater project. All of the research and evidence of moving through life is now ours to carry and organize into a house of truth where we can reside.

This is Part II of a story about Hilaree, the heart, and the home. The Heart of The Heal Part I - It is also my way of establishing a foundation for showcasing Hilaree’s work in my workspace so that I may feed Traveling Native with The Heart of The Heel and connect you to the magic of Puglia. You can also travel with us and taste it for yourself on our Tasting Puglia Tour.

Hilaree at home in Africa - at one intersection of affinity

Hilaree’s visit to my home in Philadelphia, en route to South Africa