Category Archives: Thoughts

Home is…

Studland Beach , Parachutists - geograph.org.uk - 1710928

Adrift in an endless sky

I’ve been thinking about home a bit since I had my daughter. I remember when I was younger my father told me with certainty that when I had children I would feel the pull back to my homeground – the place where I was born, where I grew taller, longer, more inquisitive. I grew up on a farm in western Victoria, an area in which my father’s family had tended the land for generations. The idea of home to my father was (still is) unequivocally geographic. His home is on those plains, in country the colours of milled corn and eucalyptus blue. As a farmer his relationship to this particular fragment of country is layered and unconditional. He depends on the land for his livelihood, yes, but also for his liveliness. It was his own father’s side of the family whose history lay like topsoil here though; his mother’s side of the family settled in Melbourne and Geelong. For my own mother, the notion of home is more complex – and distant – as she immigrated to Australia from The Netherlands as a child.

Like many country school-leavers, I myself departed for Melbourne when I was 18. I remember rare trips to Melbourne as a child and the sight of the city as I crossed the West Gate Bridge, rising like a great ship, fully lit, in the ink of night. But somewhere in my mind I was also conscious that my grandmother lived in the city, before she fell in love with a young farmer called Jack. My father’s family were proud farming people and while they often spoke about my grandmother’s elegant wedding in a chapel in Hawthorn in the 1930′s, genteel family houses with rosebud gardens, and later, as a farmer’s wife, her infrequent and much-anticipated journeys back to Melbourne to buy china and linen at Myer, this nostalgia did not generally alter their idea of home and heritage which remained nested in the plains.

As an innocent country girl, my first year in Melbourne was tough but I was determined to love it and eventually I found – or actively created – the city I had dreamed about as a little one. I lived there for just over eight years then love drew me to Perth, where I have been for less than eight years but long enough for it to be more than an extended sojourn. It is here that I first lived as a married woman, bought my first home, conceived and gave birth to my first child. In Perth I have more than satisfied the prerequisites  for what ‘home’ encompasses – a loving family, nice house, interesting job, good friends, lifestyle. I take my baby for walks in a beautiful park only a block away where we circle two lakes with intriguingly overgrown islands and I point out black swans, pelicans, turtles, fuzzy ducklings. I am spoiled for local gourmand choices. The beach is one short drive away, the hills another. It really is an idyllic life. And yet when the baby was born I experienced precisely that which my father said I would – a strong pull home, tugging at me across the expanses of the Nullarbor. I do also blame post-birth disorientation as when baby was born, all of a sudden, I was a ship at  sea. I was neither here nor there. Regardless, this pull towards family was strong – I was frightened by the thought that my parents would never get to know their littlest grandchild. However the pull was not towards the paddocked farm where I spent my own babyhood. It was to Melbourne. My second home; not my first, not my third.

I discussed this with a friend a while ago, also a former country-girl, and she suggested that unlike some, as children we only knew one house, one community, therefore even as independent, travelled adults we were attracted to the idea of one, grounding home. We loved many cities but for both of us Melbourne was ‘home’ even though neither of us lived there at the time. And we could not explain why it was this particular city. Although on reflection this is perhaps because this city is where we had our first unsheltered experiences: university life and a set of firsts that included jobs, relationships, heartbreaks. This does not mean that we are unhappy or even lonely in our other habitations, or that we won’t choose to live in different places again. Perhaps it only means we have come to romanticise the city. And there is nothing wrong with that; we  silly, imaginative humans are always threading stories upon wondrous stories. But there is something endlessly fascinating about what defines home. The question of home is not a unique or even particularly bright one, yet we continue to ponder it nonetheless. And I suspect that when the time comes to depart this Indian Ocean city I will feel a genuine sense of loss.

*Image by Lewis Clarke via Wikimedia Commons.

miscellaneous thoughts on motherhood & birth

Mother and Child by Xi Pan (2008)

Dear readers, as I was falling asleep has a big sister – for three years I’ve tended another blog, called The Beauty Philosopher.  My other blog is a fun affair – a little bit of this, a little bit of that and it is basically about nice things. I have however written a series of more personal pieces for The Beauty Philosopher, most recently about my interpretations of pregnancy, birth and motherhood. I thought they might feel at home here too, so here are the links to a handful of them. I might pop a couple of them on here directly too over the next few weeks.

baby chatter: beyond six months

motherhood: a social leveler

dreaming about a friendship

thoughts on beauty, with baby

She’s here

thoughts inspired by an apple green top

Notes on pregnancy and work

Take me to the water

*Artwork by Xi Pan. 

what (exactly) makes you happy?

I originally wrote this in my other blog but it is still playing on my mind…

Over at Heart and Design, author Amanda Talbot has an inkling to write another book. This one is about being happy and she wonders, ‘how can the definition be translated into our homes so we can create personal and public environments that can positively shift our moods and wellbeing?’

The story between happiness and our created environment has always been one I’ve loved to explore. Of course, I’m always the first to say that a natural environment like the beach makes me instantly happy. For me it is a failsafe route to tranquility and refreshment, thus happiness. But we don’t always think specifically about creating a physical space for happiness or of how objects can help create an experience that then opens the door to happiness. It’s a fine line because on the one hand, humans often learn the hard way that objects or anything material such as wealth and acquisitions do not equate to happiness. Yet I think there is a place for objects or things to provoke that elusive feeling of joy or contentment. It could be something that delights us when we look at it – human or inanimate! Something that encompasses us with a feeling of warmth or restfulness. Something we like to play in/with. Something that enables us to connect with other people. Something that makes us feel good because we feel inspired, or like we have learned something, experienced something, gained something.

A little girl or a teenager might do this very thing with her bedroom, shaping and editing a space that speaks directly to her own needs, comforts and interests through things like colour, objects, sound, light, the combining of different elements. She is in fact using design to create happiness even if she does not think this consciously. And even earlier in life this happens – I was watching my six month old daughter in her cot today as she prepared to go to sleep. She mostly hates her daytime naps and will not fall asleep without a big cry and fight. But I noticed she likes to rub certain soft toys against her face when she is very sleepy and will often fall asleep with a toy or blanket pressed against her neck and cheek. Even at this tiny age she is learning what she needs in her environment to make her feel comfortable, content, safe, happy. Something soft, something close.

Maybe it is all about creating an experience; maybe happiness is all in the experience rather than something singular, static or clearly defined. A feeling of a journey? A feeling of a destination? Travelling, rambling, arriving? I do know that for me happiness equates in some way to beauty. Feeling beautiful (emotionally rather than purely physically), observing the beauty of a person, place or moment. And designing or creating wonderful environments can also link directly into beauty. Make it beautiful, make it well. Not necessarily a conventional or classic idea of beauty, but something that fascinates, delights, compels or sometimes shocks. What do you think?

*Image via ffffound on flickr.