Begin, Again

 
 Flowers litter the street because buying a fresh bouquet when blossoms begin to fade costs under $5. 

Flowers litter the street because buying a fresh bouquet when blossoms begin to fade costs under $5. 

My husband just left for Japan. I smile at the irony of writing my first entry to Coucou Home post-marriage alone in our house because this way of being was once my everyday existence. In my solitary state, it's become clear that being married has afforded me a new perspective on a topic I've been exploring for more than a decade. 

I moved to Hanoi nearly a year ago. I thought I’d gush about my experiences here, but instead, they've forced me into silence.  Technology may blur borders, but it doesn’t erase the past -- or mannerisms. Unlike moving to London, Mississippi or Los Angeles, where culture shock for me was mild, Vietnam's transition pains have been acute. My expectations weren't lofty, but I had tethered them to Western ideals. 

Another reason for my silence, especially on Coucou Home, is that a few years ago, other people were the heart of my stories. I was the observer not the one being observed, and I liked it that way. Coucou Home was a place to tell the stories about people I met who were making a home, not how I was doing it. A change in the point-of-view was also rooted in something else. After leaving Mississippi, the birthplace of Coucou Home, I left behind the only home I thought I could write about. Boy, was I wrong.

In Mississippi, a version of home was palpable. Not the kind Hollywood might dream up, but one that rooted me in community. After I left, I also mourned that I had no garden to plant or that I couldn’t watch flowers grow, but I was a still a gardener. Wherever I went, I cultivated friendships that blossomed. My home fostered other things, too: new artwork, dinners, dreams. One of my houses even served as a home for people visiting Atlanta. 

In Mississippi, a version of home was palpable. Not the kind Hollywood might dream up, but one that rooted me in community.

This is the first year I’ve not only lived in one place but also invested in it. Like, really invested in it. There are even a few potted plants that are thriving on my balcony. In addition to budding, new friendships and work with a nonprofit organization, my creativity also found fertile soil. I wanted to reexamine what Coucou Home meant to me and to others.  

So I stripped Coucou Home down to its bones. For people who remember my earliest posts, entries were honest and transparent. The sense of searching for “home” was obvious, but never strained. It was, most of all, a meditation, a place for my soul to rest in the world. Later, when I took on a corporate role, I shuttered Coucou Home for fear of scrutiny. The move silenced me. Without an outlet for creative expression, my spirit suffered. 

Coucou Home's restoration reclaims my downtrodden spirit, and along with that, it reestablishes a place for people to experience transparency and brutal honesty. We need more of these things in the world, but in a kind and loving way.

Coucou Home will also respond to a question people often ask me: How do we balance a creative life with everything else? You know what? I don’t. Trying to balance everything creates more blockage than breakthroughs. I will write honestly about this dilemma as the website grows. 

What I've learned, and will continue to examine, is how we can allow our homes to guide us, to nurture us. Home, after all, was the world's first sanctuary, a place us to grow.  

 
Mary Warner