For years I searched for a place to call home. I yearned for a place that felt like my own. Born in Brisbane my family and I moved several times. I remember the first time we moved I asked my Mum if I could take my room with me, to which she replied yes. I was very upset upon arriving at our new house to discover that my room was not there but rather the contents of my previous room.
Wanting a simpler life we relocated to the Sunshine Coast hinterland when I was six years old to a little town called Maleny. Only two years later we moved further inland to the nearby Conondale area and later to a permaculture community called Crystal Waters. Days were spent in nearby waterholes and dams, running barefooted through the bush, often naked, covering ourselves in mud, riding bikes and running away from home only to return a few hours later when we were hungry. There were goats, chickens, geese, turkeys, cats, dogs, wallabies, echidnas, eels in the dam that bit and motorbikes to ride. We went to the beach frequently and soaked ourselves in the heat of the day and finding relief as storms rolled in during the afternoon – the land gave a big sigh out.
As a teenager I left the familiar hills of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland and ventured off to live in the bustle of inner city West End, Brisbane before retreating once again to Maleny. My next calling was Lismore in northern New South Wales. I wanted a fresh start and to be anonymous as a young adult. The studios of the printmaking department at Southern Cross University became my home for three years. I was immersed in creative energy and what many refer to as “flow”. Upon completing my degree as the recipient a fellowship I travelled to Burnie, Tasmania to make art. Afterwards I stopped off for a week in Melbourne en route to back “home” to Queensland. Nine years later I am still living in Victoria.
For several years I hosted going away parties, which became meetings in which friends convinced me to stay in Victoria. I lived in the centre of Melbourne – Collingwood, Carlton and also in the inner suburbs of East Brunswick and Preston. But I always felt that something was missing. An inner ache for home, a calling to return to the land. Weekend trips out of the city became my lifeline.
After four years of urban living I moved with my partner to Humevale near Kinglake West just before the 2009 Black Saturday Bushfires. The lush, dense bush we were surrounded by soon gave way to charcoal trees. Our little country house suspended on the side of a black hill. A year and a half later we moved yet again to the other side of Mount Disappointment, a place also renewing itself after the fires. Green shoots, bracken, ferns, new growth sprung up all around us in our backyard playground. We spent our leisure time bushwalking and mountain bike riding in the state forest that my partner had spent his adolescence growing up in.
Despite finally fulfilling my desire to live in a regional area I still felt a pang for “home” yet I was not sure where my home was. When I travelled back to the lush, green, temperature weather of southern Queensland my skin relaxed as it soaked up the warmth and the thick drops of rain that falls there. I felt myself literally sinking into my skin. But the faces of my past and memories of ghosts that reside in that landscape haunted me. I scuttled back to Victoria and was swept back into the excitement of trams, of cultural saturation and the unfamiliar sense that comes with a constantly changing city.
I now find myself in central regional Victoria – goldfields country. The dry, rocky soil of the small country town Castlemaine with its frost covered blanket of winter and scorching summers. This old, old town that is full of nostalgia and sentimentality yet is also progressive and growing. I once felt resistance to find beauty in this land – so foreign and different from the tropical setting of my youth. I am now in awe of this ever shifting, unpredictable weather and varied country.
I have come to know that it is sense of place and relationship to the land that develops my identity and notion of home. I have come to know that home is somewhere that is not only a physical place to dwell, a place one returns to at the end of a long day for renewal and sanctuary or place of comfort and connection with loved ones in familial surrounds. For me it is also a place I carry around inside of me. I feel home when I feel safe. I feel home inside my own skin. Home travels within me as I move through different lands and experiences. Rather than feeling a constant uncertainty about where I belong, I now choose to immerse myself in the location I reside for the duration of my stay – whether temporary or a longer time. When the time comes for change my home travels with me to the next location.
Home is embedded in country and also in those I share my life with. But always home for me is about returning to my centre, to restock, refuel and contemplate on whatever emotional and physical state I am in at any given moment. I am home when I lay in my bed with the covers pulled up around my head and I just stare at the wall. I am home when I am lying in the back of our camping trailer next to a river I have only just met, I am home when I travel with only a small backpack between between Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and New Zealand. I am home when I am within myself.
© Natalya Garden-Thompson
written while on holiday at my Mum’s home in Beerwah, Queensland, August 2014