We searched through a long abandoned cupboard shelf the other day, and discovered a plethora of forgotten things. A Union Jack paper lantern that we had bought to take on a picnic (it was an optimistic purchase even when we first saw it), a leather passport holder still in the embossed box (shortly after buying it, in a tiny New Zealand shop I found covers that actually looked like my pretty passport) and a box full of art supplies that I had enthusiastically purchased intending to brighten the world one randomly sent homemade card at a time (properly nice, non-froufrou ones FYI).
And it got me thinking about home.
Thinking about memories and how they are ephemeral whispers of color. Fleeting scents of days gone by. The softly lingering taste of what came before. Sometimes they are found in the sound of children’s laughter, the glimpse of a long forgotten photograph or the ancient blog post of years ago. Sometimes they can even be summoned by the fleeting thought that I arrived in the UK with little more than a suitcase never intending to settle, and now our home has long forgotten shelves with momentos we haven’t looked at in an age.
Back in the days when I was an architecture student, I did an arty installation for one of our ‘crit’ sessions (basically you produced some design work linked back to a particular theme and present it to your tutors and fellow students defending why you felt it met the brief whilst they ‘crit’iqued it). For a particular one I chose to represent home.
Deciding that constructing an actual picket fence building on a student budget was too crazy, I went about exploring the idea that often home is psychological rather than necessarily always a physical set, solid place. Sure, we often inhabit buildings for long periods of time and the accrual of stuff turns a house into a home, but where is the emotional threshold that finds a place for it in our heart?
Take “digital nomads” for instance. They delight in hashtag clichés, hop from hotel to hotel and inhabit an online world of their own construction. Home for them is simply a suitcase (or gargantuan backpack) lugged from pillar to post, stuffed with a few selected precious items that they prop on a bedside table or even photos that they keep on their phone of smiles that they adore.
A good friend of mine asked me a while ago “What do you hope to achieve with all this travelling? It seems to me like you’re searching for something, something that you can’t put a finger on.” I guess the inference is ‘why can’t you be happy with contentment’ perhaps checking out somewhere new once in a while, but really settling into enjoying the familiar – whether here or abroad.
I suspect that’s the problem having a curious questioning soul. Of my maternal family, one of my cousins (the one whose Abu Dhabi coffee & deck we enjoyed as he packed up his life to move to Malaysia) understands this call of adventure. Telling us a few of his stories after living in several continents and having circumnavigated the world several times before the Internet changed travelling forever, we had a slightly tipsy conversation about the rest of the whanau living contended lives in tight-knit communities and how we envy how settled they are, but just don’t feel like we could settle yet for something like that. Conversely, I don’t think a gypsy lifestyle would suit us either.
Our red-brick home beckons like a beacon at the end of each exploration, our cozy sanctuary full of accumulated memories and a complaining beast curled up at the end of our bed. Maybe that’s the definition of home. For now.
I gotta get cleaning more often.