Home Is Where…

During Craig’s message on the Sunday or Monday before Christmas, asking about where home is, I recalled several answers and wonder how many know these.

“Home is where the heart is.”

“Home is where you hang your hat.”

I like this last, which I first heard from Dad. He has an old Stetson (silver belly with a narrow brim) that he likely purchased in the late ‘50s at Mountain Home.  That hat had adventures, blowing off across the airbase to be recovered against the fence; riding atop the 1970 Travelall trapped from blowing off by the boat rack as he drove my sister from an apple orchard to Daly Hospital in Hamilton, Montana when she fell off a ladder, breaking a leg.  After years of adventures, he had that old Stetson cleaned, reblocked, renewed.  He’ll be 90 next month.

My Stetson came to me after 25 years of hunting. (“Guys don’t shop, we hunt.” – Tim Allen).  This is a town hat (like Sitka, where we had town raingear, and work raingear; the town stuff was cleaner for weddings and other occasions).

It occurs to me that this is a great definition of home, as I’ve felt at home wherever I’ve been, so God the Spirit, the Creator, Sustainer, Savior has been under whatever hat I’ve been wearing. That all-around brim hard hat I scrounged from the closed YACC camp at False Island (painted with various colors in a unique camo pattern) for stream surveys across northern SE Alaska and Yakutat; ball caps to shed the rain dripping from Helly Hansen/Grundens/Cofish rain jacket hoods; ‘bomber hats’ with the earflaps to wear against windblown snow, and more…

When I retired from the Cordova (Alaska) Harbor Department, City Hall had a retirement ceremony for me. I was overwhelmed by the presentations: the head of the USCG commercial vessel examinations team told those assembled that he always received welcome assistance to their needs, the City gave me a print of Orca Inlet painted by Sidney Laurence in the 1920’s.  Incredibly, Larry Bell (business manager at IBEW-LU1547) and the management committee suspended the rule to award a thirty-year retirement gold pan for 16 years of service to the city’s bargaining unit as a shop steward (and 11 years as a dues-paying member).  Those first five years were a struggle, as we represented those who did not agree with our organizing to negotiate that first collective bargaining agreement.  These items joined the 2001 Rookie & Organizing Shop Steward of the Year, an honor shared by three of us with the City.  Every time I look at these items above the kitchen cabinets, I think of everyone that was with me.  It’s not a retirement “me” wall, but a “We” wall, providing encouragement for the future as I have been mentored and encouraged in the past.

The late Andy Liljestrand (hydrology technician) and I knew one morning that our stream survey on the lower half of Trap Bay River placed us in close proximity to a brown bear. When your first clue after the helicopter departs is to look at a distinct forefoot print with water beginning to trickle into the depression of the pads, you know it’s close ahead.  Next clue, slide a male pink salmon off the gravel bar with a hip boot and watch it swim immediately.  OK, we’ll do our stream survey section stations, then bail out uphill, walk down and drop in at the next one.  That day, we never saw, heard, or smelled a bear, but may have been five yards away.  The 10-meter fiberglass stadia rod I carried, and the issued .375H&H that Andy carried with us would not have helped.  It was “God with us.”  And with his other creations, too.

So, even when there’s no other human being with me (or a bear, or other creature), I’ll likely use the pronoun “We” while it looks like I’m traveling solo through life.

Hoping and praying that everyone finds encouragement, light, enlightenment, and the courage to feel ‘at home’ wherever you go…


Charlie Branch   (‘adopted’ by three families at Whitianga, NZ for New Year’s Eve 1986…  snorkeling for abalone, body surfing, and DB double bitters…)



  1. Reply
    Laurie Lyons says

    Charlie, you make me feel at home whenever you write.

  2. Reply
    Jeanette Johnson says

    I agree with you, Laurie…..especially after my visit to Alaska way north — even flying around Denali, in May of 2016 — and from my new outlook here in desert Arizona…refreshment, water in the desert, taking me “back home” for a few minutes to my PNW. Home is Rest. Thanks Charlie and Laurie 🙂

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