What makes a home?

January 29, 2009

I considered the above question this morning, whilst standing on the verandah looking over our rather bedraggled but much loved vegie garden. Bodhi was wandering around eating a tomato that we had freshly picked for him, and I realised that, whilst transitory, I am going to miss this place when we move to Bellingen.

Over my life, I have lived in twelve different places. I have lived in every type of situation, from multiple occupancy farms, to share houses, to boarding, in huts, in apartments, in large houses, in a refuge, by myself, with partners, with friends, and with enemies. I have rented and owned. I even spent four miserable but healing months in a mouldy, old caravan.

I have felt a strong affinity to some places, and never felt at home with others. Strangely enough, I never really felt at home with the place Zai and I owned. Having said that, I believe that a place never belongs to you- you belong to a place, and as such, and having lived that experientially, home ownership is not a goal of mine anymore, except in maybe a convenience sense.

What has lead me to feel connected to a place- like I belong?

To answer this I will reflect on the places I have lived with a sense of connection to a strong degree. Those places are the MO I grew up on- an old hut in the middle of a thousand acres outside a small rural town; my first flat out of home; the caravan, an apartment at Flynn’s Beach,  and this place.

The farm gave me roots. I lived there for fifteen years, so shared a considerable history with it. The land was my solace, the cradle of my imagination, a classroom far more interesting and relevant than any I went through in the school system.

In childhood, being somewhat socially isolated, I found a lot of what I was searching for in the land. In my cubbies in the forest, I created additions to my family of mum and I- many brothers and sisters. I had a whole imaginary life supplementing my real one. I had a complex and comforting narrative wrapped up in the land, and all my special secret spots and beautiful places.

We were evicted when I was fifteen, as the owners were selling the property, and that is the loss I probably still feel most keenly to date.

So, from this place, what makes a home? Shared history. Personal meaning that no one else shares.

The memories of my first little apartment are predominantly really fun. It felt so liberating to be out of home, to do my own thing in my own way, if daunting. I think we had a party every weekend, and I soon had two flatmates and two cats living with me in an area the size of an average lounge room (or, at least it felt like it sometimes!). Somehow we managed about eight months there before we were evicted, when one of us left a tap on and flooded the downstairs garage.

What do I take from this? A place of fun and joy, but also of finding and affirming my self.

The caravan was a sanctuary after a nasty breakup. I had very little money, very few options, and just about no self esteem. I was hurting badly, but at the same time had a keen instinct to heal.

It was again a time of finding myself, but this time, not discovering who I was, but reinventing myself, examining what I liked, and enhancing it, and discarding what no longer served me.

The apartment at Flynn’s was in some ways the opposite. Having come through that time, rebuilding my self esteem, options and bank account, I rented this beautiful penthouse. The first morning I woke up there, I had a wonderful feeling of space and lightness all around me.

That flat was testament to my journey in life, my material and spiritual progress. It was karmic, I think.

From that place, I found my belonging in a reflection of my journey.

The house we now live in is filled with joy because of the people. Mainly my beautiful little boy. When I think about this house, I think about Bodhi running around eating home grown tomatoes. I think of Zai and I sitting on the verandah at midnight drinking chai and talking about social issues. I think of the way the dawn light streaming in the window looks as I feed my child.

So from this place, I learn family. But also, it’s a mutually beneficial relationship we have with this house. We tend it’s gardens, look after the land, and it provides us with food. We cleanse the space, and it provides us with peace. We sow in love, and we are surrounded by love.

So in a small way, we are dependant on each other. Interdependency is what it has taught us.

To summarise, connectedness and belonging come from shared history and personal meaning, fun and joy, connecting and affirming the self, a sanctuary but at the same time reflecting the life journey, but mostly, a sense of love and interdependence.

In five months, we make the move to our soul town. We take with us not only possessions, but these lessons, and I look forward to finding my home I knwo is already there, waiting for me, just like it always has.