SpiritualiTea at the Wilson Center celebrates meaningful conversation Tuesday nights at 5:30 p.m. Photo by Jack Barber, Staff.
Sarah O'Malley

Sarah O’Malley is a fourth-year Journalism student from Boston, MA who has since moved to Orono, ME to study at the University of Maine. She is a staff writer for the Culture section and enjoys attending events, meeting new people, and learning more about UMaine and its students. In her free time she enjoys hiking, cooking, watching documentaries, and playing with dogs.

Last Tuesday, as rain fell and combined with snow to create a slushy mess outside, the Wilson Center celebrated its first weekly SpiritualiTEA meeting of the semester. Held every Tuesday from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., the center opens its doors to welcome any and everyone for a cup of soothing hot tea and lively discussion. Topics range weekly and are led by different community members each time. Attendance fluctuates over the semester, but sometimes fewer attendants can lead to more intimate discussions. And those brave enough to brace the weather last Tuesday found themselves lucky enough to partake in an enlightening discussion about the concept of the word “home.”

Sonja Birtchisel, a Wilson Center employee, led the discussion and began by posing the question “what does home mean?” to each person present. “Is it community? Love? A sense of belonging?” she questioned, “an oasis? A refuge?”

She continued on to lament over the distinction between what makes a house a home, and if home is where the heart is or where the underwear is kept. Birtchisel noted how this is a pondering she thinks many college students face as they move out of their childhood homes and into dorms, apartments or and other various student living accommodations.

Margaret Pickoff, a University of Maine graduate student and New Jersey native, commented on how moving up to Maine on her own and leaving behind family, a boyfriend and a childhood home has changed her perspective on what it means to come home.

“After coming to grad school and living by myself in my own apartment, it really feels like I have two distinct lives going on, and two homes to go to now.”

The dichotomy of home as a concept to students coming to college is a tricky one. Most students comes to school knowing that it’s a provisional stay, and the spaces they create for themselves become temporary little worlds of their own. Many students spend this time thinking about how to find their place in the world, seeking a sense of belonging and acceptance, and their notions about home may transform and evolve in this time.

This progression was discussed in depth during the short hour of conversation, and time seemed to fly by as people who were once strangers grew closer by relating their experiences and feelings to each others’.

The Wilson Center can become somewhat of a second home to those who frequent its events, a spiritual solace of sorts in a school environment that can at times seem overwhelming and busy. Birtchisel noted her unofficial motto of the Center as “everyone is welcome, just as they are.” She has been a part of the SpiritualiTEA meetings for some time now, and has gained close friends and fresh perspectives from the routine.

“It provides a space to ask questions that you don’t always get to talk about in your daily life. We have talked about all kinds of stuff in the past; artificial intelligence, social media, parenting, and more.”

So if you’re looking for a place to have meaningful conversations and warm up with some hot tea (they have a wonderful variety; orange and spice, earl grey, masala chai, Chinese green, English breakfast, you name it), you’re always welcome at the Wilson Center. As for Birtchisel’s meaning of home? “I would postulate that human beings are the happiest when their heart and their underwear are in the same home.”