29 September 2010

Your home - know it, share it and make it productive

I didn't blog about this when we were in the thick of it because I didn't understand fully what had just happened. I thought it was just one of those things that you think about, it doesn't happen, and you go on as before. Many of you know that in those wee small hours when I lay awake, I think about what is happening in my life, if improvements are needed or if we need to completely stop certain things and get on with something else. Well, a couple of months ago, I wanted to leave here and buy another house. Yep, I did just write that. Me, who when we bought this land in 1992, swore this was the place I would die. Way back then, the thought that I felt so strongly about this place and that I wanted to live my life out here, just astounded me, and made me comfortable at the same time.

I love change. I love the challenges it brings, the news ways of viewing our lives, the heightened awareness and how new perceptions turn into a hundred different things. But just as our lives were very settled and a new grand baby was on the horizon, along came a gnawing doubt that we should be somewhere else. Where? I have no idea. I just knew I wanted to be surrounded by family and history and if we could find an old cottage in good condition in a country town, possibly in New South Wales, then I was ready to go.

Hanno was horrified. Nevertheless, he sat with me on many occasions while I talked about moving and why I wanted to go, he looked at a hundred cottages I found on realestate.com and even though he didn't want to leave our home, he assured me he would help me find that elusive place. We even travelled to an old coal mining town at the back of Brisbane, looking for miners cottages. We found many of them, but not in a town I could call mine. It all looked foreign to me. I was very happy when we turned the car around and headed for home.

Then I started thinking about our history and what we'd done in this house. I was still in my forties when we came here. We settled here when our boys were still teenagers; Shane and Sarndra married in our garden; I had my fiftieth and sixtieth birthday parties here; Hanno had had his sixtieth and seventieth birthday parties here. Both our sons celebrated their twenty-first birthdays right in that same backyard. We planted the garden, installed water tanks, skylights, solar hotwater and whirlybirds. We erected fences and built a shed. We have chooks and worms that help us live well from what we produce in the backyard. Bananas, lemons, oranges and blueberries are producing; the avocados we planted are still to feed us. I have been lost a couple of times and found myself again on our front verandah. I taught myself to love housework here. I rediscovered old skills that had laid dormant for many years. I discovered myself here, this house and this land helped make me who I am.

How could we leave! I realised the history I was seeking was not only all around me it was inside me too. If we moved we'd be walking away from our history. If we moved all the work and effort we'd put into this place would be left behind for others, while we would be starting again. I stopped thinking of moving, fell in love with my home all over again and thanked my lucky stars for the insight to know when I had it so good.

Our connection to the place we live starts the moment we stop moving but too few of us are staying long enough to reap the rewards of really knowing where we live. It's not just the house and every micro-climate in the backyard we need to be familiar with, it's the community we live in as well. Without our communities and the collective wisdom contained within them, we will struggle no matter where we live. Hanno and I hooked into our local community and we have been rewarded with a fine group of friends and networks that help us live well and within our means.

My feeling is that most people are looking for the ideal house that will help them live in the way they have chosen. The problem is that few houses are ideal. If the house is excellent, the land isn't, or the location is wrong or the soil is not right. We have changed our house over the years to fit us and that works really well. It's far better than constantly being on the lookout for a better place to move to, then realise is not better after all. Instead of wasting all that energy like I did, put down roots, discover your place, know it, share it and make it productive. When you have the time, do exactly the same with your neighbourhood and your wider community. I am finding all sorts of interesting things in my community that weren't evident at first glance. Now that I've stopped looking for something better I have the time and energy to make the most of our social investment here. And best of all, now I know I'm not going anywhere, I'm free to develop a place fit for a grandchild or two. Now, that's what I call history!

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