Our Home Away from Home at Home

Novelist, Thomas Wolfe once wrote: “You can’t go home again”

I’m sorry, Thomas – I disagree.

As we planned to spend all of December in Australia this year, we decided to investigate house-sitting. I posted information about ourselves on a House Sitting site, including where and when we were hoping to find a house. Only one showed up that suited both our requirements – close to our previous Australian home and for the entire month of December- so that’s the one we chose. Fortunately, the house owners also selected us as the successful applicants.

It has worked well,  given us space and prevented the worry of burdening any possible hosts.

We moved into the house on December 1st, and since then,  it has become our home away from home. We have a canary, who is a joy to listen to, and two affectionate cats to care for. It’s been fun, but has prompted the question:

What does the word home mean to me?

When we first settled into the house, I walked around the neighbourhood. I’ve never lived in this town, and yet it is vaguely familiar to me because I have driven through parts of it many times. It is also a seaside suburb of Port Phillip Bay, as was the home we lived in for 28 years before moving to America.

Port Phillip Bay, Victoria.

The first day I walked to the beach and gazed out over the bay, towards our old hometown in one direction, and the city of Melbourne in the other and I was overcome with an overwhelming feeling of joy.

Melbourne Dec 2012 020

Did the feeling stem from the fact that I’m in the country where my parents were born and where I was born? The place that gave me my values and a joyful childhood? Or is it because it is the birthplace of my siblings, the place where I grew up, made many friends, met my husband and raised my children?

I don’t think so.

I think something greater is at play here.

I felt very at home in my house in Florida. I feel at home in my house in Glasgow, and now I feel at home in this stranger’s house in Australia, but the difference is that here, when I step outside the door, I still feel at home.

I feel at home in the shops, in the  countryside and in the city; everywhere.

The accents sound right, the plants are familiar, the smells are known, the noisy birds delight me and the water tastes like water!


Noisy but colourful Lorrikeet in our house-sit back yard on Christmas Day.
Photo by A Townsend

Aboriginal spirituality is inextricably linked to land. The Australian Aborigine believes that we are each linked to the land we were born in, and that when we leave it, part of our spirit remains to be reunited on our return.

The Aboriginal flag

In the words of aborigine, S. Knight – “it’s like picking up a piece of dirt and saying this is where I started and this is where I’ll go. The land is our food, our culture, our spirit and identity.” 

Or as Senimelia Kingsburra from far North Queensland says: “Spirituality is about tapping into the still places I go to when I’m on country and I feel like I’m part of all the things around me,”

Aboriginal author and Yorta Yorta woman Hyllus Maris (1934-86) expressed this connectedness with the land beautifully in her poem Spiritual Song of the Aborigine.


by Hyllus Maris.

I am a child of the Dreamtime

People Part of this Land,

like the gnarled gumtree

I am the river, softly singing

Chanting our songs on my way to the sea

My spirit is the dust-devils

Mirages, that dance on the plain

I’m the snow, the wind and the falling rain

I’m part of the rocks

and the red desert earth

Red as the blood that flows in my veins

I am eagle, crow and snake that glides

Thorough the rain-forest that clings to the mountainside

I awakened here when the earth was new

There was emu, wombat, kangaroo

No other man of a different hue

I am this land

And this land is me

I am Australia.

Ormiston Gorge, Central Australia.
Photograph by J Pisapia

I am not an aborigine, nor am I black, but her words resonate with me, but I know other Australians who feel connected to other places. Maybe I lived as an aborigine in a past life.

Some say, Home is where the heart is. I know the importance of being close to those you love, and my desire to be closer to those people is a big part of my enthusiasm for moving back to Australia, but I think my spiritual connection to the land and the feeling of being whole again when I am here, is what really makes Australia home to me.

What does the word home mean to you?

To Dorothea McKellar, it meant this in the fourth verse of My Country:

Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When sick at heart, around us,
We see the cattle die –
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady, soaking rain.

Photo by A Townsend

Photo by A Townsend

7 thoughts on “Our Home Away from Home at Home

  1. Hi Juli, loved this blog. There are lots of beautiful countries and you have been so fortunate to see so many of them and enjoy living in some and travelling thru’ others.
    Much as I would love to live in France for a year or so I never had any desire to leave Australia for any real length of time because I love this country too much and it IS HOME.
    I loved Warrnambool where I spent my first 11 years, Lower Plenty for teenage years, then Melbourne proper, Sydney (2 years that somehow became 29 years) and now Bellingen/Brierfield another beautiful part of Australia. Would have liked Albany area in WA or east coast of Tassie or Beechworth or …….. probably any number of other places, all different, but all Australia!


    • (edit)

      House sitting was not without challenges, for instance – finding the appropriate cooking utensils for the types of meals we like. We imagine our home owner must have eaten very differently to us – but as long as you are prepared to deal with odd things that you may not choose if it was your own home, it’s a wonderful way to have your own space and didn’t cost us anything.

  2. Pingback: House Sitting | Juli Townsend's Transition to Home

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