Homeward Bound: What Does the Phrase "Feels Like Home" Actually Mean?

“Feels like Home.”  An odd phrase to be sure. When we say it, we seldom mean the literal place where we keep our possessions or get our mail. Usually, we mean something else.  Something bigger- even mythic. Yes, a metaphor, but for what exactly? Peace, Security,  Wholeness? Maybe, but these terms are also abstract. What do they mean?

"Home" has always been one of literature's great themes- building a home, protecting one's home, leaving home. Odysseus’ sole mission was to return home.
In the opening passage of her novel Damage, Josephine Hart describes "Home" this way:
There is an internal landscape, a geography of the soul; we search for its outlines all our lives. Those who are lucky enough to find it ease like water over a stone, onto its fluid contours, and are home.   
Some find it in the place of their birth; others may leave a seaside town, parched, and find themselves refreshed in the desert. There are those born in rolling countryside who are really only at ease in the intense and busy loneliness of the city. 
For some, the search is for the imprint of another; a child or a mother, a grandfather or a brother, a lover, a husband, a wife, or a foe.  
We may go through our lives happy or unhappy, successful or unfulfilled, loved or unloved, without ever standing cold with the shock of recognition, without ever feeling the agony as the twisted iron in our soul unlocks itself and we slip at last into place. 
Those who are lucky enough to find it ease like water over a stone… and are home. Here, Hart too is using the term "home" in a grand or mythic sense. When I read Hart's quote the first time, I was reminded of Nick Cassavetes’ The Notebook, based on Nicholas Sparks novel.  Most dismiss the story as mere genre, but there are a few interesting moments. The two main characters, Noah (Ryan Gosling) and Allie (Rachel McAdams) fall in love but then eventually become estranged.  At one point, Allie is even set to marry someone else. In spite of this, Noah continues to rebuild a home he always envisioned living in with Allie.  In doing so, he creates a room just for her where she can pursue her passion for painting.  Shortly after seeing it, she laments the fact that she never paints anymore. She wants to, but for whatever reason, has stopped. We assume it’s because she has been busy or has simply forgotten- forgotten what’s important; essential.  She’s reminded when Noah presents her this “room of one’s own.” By Noah understanding this need, even when Allie has forgotten it, their relationship moves beyond mere attraction, even beyond affection, to perhaps the truest form of intimacy- recognition. It’s one thing to be desirable to another, but it’s something else to be known. The house Noah built is a home but also acts as home in the mythic sense we've been discussing.  Noah and Allie rekindle their relationship and something “unlocks itself” as both “slip at last into place.”