I’ve been thinking about home lately, what ‘home’ means, why some of us need one and some of us fight against any idea of permanency and place. I’m thinking about home because I’m facing my fourth move in just under two years, when I sold the family home after my marriage ended.
Leaving my home was gut wrenching, it represented the fruit of my love. I worked and raised three girls there, loved and buried pets in the back yard and planted a garden with cuttings from family and friends.
Rooms in the house became custodians of memory, each house brick a time capsule of my family’s life. My father’s legacy was evident from outdoor blinds to hooks in nooks. The patterns of sunlight filtering through a venetian blind or a screen of weeping bamboo were old friends.
When I left I sought refuge at a friend’s place, sub-letting a bedroom and storage room, taking my two small dogs to a property filled with chooks, horses and kangaroos. I was made welcome and stayed five months. Was it home? No it was a room in my friend’s home. The physical environment was different.
But my possessions buoyed my spirits and I spent hours in the storeroom sorting and repacking my things, they anchored me like a boat to a mooring. A few months in her nephew needed a place to live so they had to be sent to a storage facility on New Years Eve. This was another gut wrench. Without them I felt displaced, adrift.
At this point I took a leap of faith and resigned from my job. Work for $ alone had lost all meaning.
I decided I would reinvent myself and relocated to study writing at university. I took a tiny garden flat in a country town where I knew no one. The expense of another move had me give more of my things to friends and charities. It meant leaving one of my dogs, a dear little rescued Maltese who was devoted to me, with a friend. You can see a picture of her in my post ‘is this love?’
In giving her away I despised myself, I had become one of those people who gave pets away because they were inconvenient. In my defense I knew that she was struggling with all the changes and a stable, quiet household would be the best for her but I had let myself down.
Was the new flat home? In a way I came to see it as home, albeit a temporary one, I used my own crockery and surrounded myself with my art and books thereby marking the space as my own. Being surrounded by the familiar gave me ownership of my space, part of my culture’s concept of home.
There were lots of experiences during that year, I was single and without any friends in the vicinity but I went out and about exploring the area, sometimes taking the dog with me but mostly on my own. I meet some great people including a group who share my passion for the environment and animal rights.
With another grandchild due I moved back down the coast sub-letting a room off the friend who had taken Trixie. Tired of packing and feeling the burden of material possessions I let go of most of my furniture, ‘let go’ literally and figuratively, I was stripping my life bare.
As my possessions dwindled, a sense of freedom rose within me. Who am I stripped of my things? How do I renegotiate this new terrain? How do I ground myself when I am constantly on the move? What does ‘home’ mean?
What I found is that possessions have meaning, they can be the custodians of our memories, they can be constants in a changing world, but in themselves they are not home.
For the last six months I have been living in a small room, crammed with my books and collection of crystals. I sleep on a borrowed bed, mostly cook and eat at my daughters and my storage boxes gather dust in the garage. I am finally making the transition away from defining myself in the roles I once held, wife, mother, manager, yet I have not yet rediscovered the new me.
Sometimes I catch a glimpse of her when I am walking on the headland. She is that slight middle-aged woman with camera in hand, happy and excited to be outdoors in nature. She is the night owl tapping at her keyboard when the rest of the world sleeps. Sometimes she is the lonely figure at the end of the headland staring with tear-streaked cheeks out to sea.
I still often feel adrift. I am a boat without a permanent berth. I wonder what the future holds but I am not afraid. I am full of ideas, hopes and wishful thinking. I am tossed about by random winds and at the mercy of prevailing currents but I have come to an understanding of what ‘home’ means to me.
Belonging to a place matters, we become a part of the landscape whether it is an urban or rural one, we connect through our interaction with our environment and the others who inhabit it. But these landscapes can change. We are the constant fixture in our own lives and home must be based on ourselves.
We travel like gypsies through life, through marriages, work and friendships. We change lounges and bedroom suites.We love and bury pets. We plant trees that others cut down. Through it all we have this yen to be grounded in a place called home.
I now better understand that home is a social and cultural construct, it means different things to different people but it seems to me it is intrinsically tied up with places that are familiar. Who are we more familiar with than ourselves? Who sets up camp in these places we call home? Who is the constant in these changings landscapes? I must return to the source.
These questions have led me to pick over my inner life as carefully as the seagulls that beachcomb along the shore. I have stripped away many of the things western culture associates with home.
I am moving again in two weeks, it is a great spot surrounded by trees and views of the coast. I don’t know how long I will be there. There will be a different kitchen, I will get my mail in a different letterbox and hang my washing on a different clothesline.
This journey has taught me that if I shift my perspective I can satisfy this yen for home without putting down roots for I am the constant within the change.
This new place like the next will be home. Because I will be there.
© Margo Laidley-Scott