Whether you have children or not you probably find that the pace of life rises and falls around the flow of the academic year. After the long summer holidays September is an honorary second New Year. The nights are drawing in and we really can’t cling on to summer anymore or to those now-waning holiday feelings. It’s time to embrace our routines again. Nesting is also a useful occupation for this time of year. Birds tend to do it in spring in time to rear a brood. For humans it’s an annual pre-autumnal pursuit, so around now we start to ready ourselves for spending more time indoors drinking tea and making things comfy and cosy for when the windows aren’t open as much, if at all.
“There’s no place like home… there’s no place like home…”
Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz
I agree with Dorothy, there is no place like home. There is nothing like returning home after a stint away, for work or pleasure, or being lucky enough to make a home over many years and to have one place where you can gather people and meaningful things (also known as hoarding!). I love a holiday and the freshness of staying somewhere different, particularly not surrounded by life’s clutter, not to mention pottery. Though I’m into maximising the comforts these days and take some of home with me – a handful of my favourite teabags and my own pillow (‘somewhere to lay my head’). But then I absolutely love returning home, yes, to the clutter, but also to the trinkets, the pictures on the walls, to my kitchen, to all the things that are definitely nobody else’s but that tell my story, and with a new appreciation of it all.
Home offers us connection, comfort and confidence, somewhere to hang our hat, somewhere to lay our head (and somewhere to display our collection of hand-crafted tableware?!).
I don’t mind someone else’s clutter, it’s charming. One reason I believe Airbnb has become so popular for travellers, apart from the often lower prices, is because it plays to our human need for something with a personal touch, something that is individual and with character, rather than the generic, corporate feel of many hotels, however boutique they promise to be. Being allowed into someone else’s home with their personal objects around – postcards stuck to the fridge, framed family photographs on the wall – is a rare opportunity to glean a tiny insight into someone else’s life, to understand how we all share the need to make a house a home and how we all do it in so many different ways.
An equally rare thing these days is to remain, or, in Nick’s case eventually return to, almost exactly the same place you lived as a child. Most of us will have moved at least once or twice as we grew up and again in our adult lives. Seeing what was our home as an empty shell and our belongings gathered together, boxed and bagged, awaiting a removal van is a humbling thing. When the objects, clothes, books and CDs (if you still have them and haven’t digitised your libraries), and (hardest to move of all) large house plants, are in transit and not fulfilling their function as the wallpaper of our lives, life is unsettled until we find new places for them all and piece the whole collection of things back together into a reshaped jigsaw.
‘Home is where you hang your hat’ or where you cultivate your garden or plant your orchard.
“If there’s love in a house, it’s a palace for sure”
Lyrics from House where nobody lives by Tom Waits.
I moved to Ireland nearly 50 years ago now. While I don’t, and never will, sound like I’m from Ireland I felt almost instantly that it was the country I could and would call ‘home’. However it’s most likely, if you make a move across continents it will take time for your sense of gravity to follow suit across the ocean and for you to have that feeling of ‘home’ in your new place, for it not to be new anymore. Love can help a lot with that, and having a family, who, when they have fledged can take a small piece of your sense of home with them if they end up living far away.
Humans aren’t the only animals to have an instinct to find and make a home, or return to it. The homing capabilities of some birds and mammals are astounding, navigating thousands of kilometers to particular breeding grounds or waters. Home is a magnet indeed, a literal one if you’re a turtle and use ‘magnetic orientation’ to find your way ‘home’. Luckily the creatures on these pieces have happy homes on our bowls and mugs.
"Home is not a place, it’s a feeling"
Sometimes just the slant of the sunlight at a certain time of year, the feel of the air, or the shape and variety of trees and vegetation can trigger a vivid physical memory of somewhere else. Perhaps this was a place previously called home, the moment of realisation connecting the past with the present. These connections make us feel at ease and feel comfortable, the most ourselves. I think September might be one of my favourite months of the year for this kind of reflection.
So, let’s all follow Dorothy, tap the heels of our ruby slippers and enjoy finding our ways to the places to call and make home.
It is impossible to talk about making a house a home without also remembering the sad truth that there are many people who have no home and all that many of us take for granted in terms of a stable and safe home out of reach. If you feel compelled to help, there are charities and organisations where you are that offer support and provide services for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness who accept donations.