Saturday, July 2, 2016

A tale of two homes

There is still a lot of summer to come, but I can already feel its end. It is over a year since we first came to view this house, which is hard to believe.

Our lovely neighbours dropped in with a box full of gooseberries, rhubarb, herbs, spinach and rocket from their garden, all beautifully picked and put together. The care and time spent growing these things is immediately apparent when they come like this and not wrapped in too much packaging from a supermarket shelf. We have become quite good at not letting anything go to waste - this has been a week of turning leftovers into all kinds of new dishes. Some of our apples and pears had gone so soft that touching them made the skin come off, so I simmered them in a bit of water, and we ate the result with yogurt and cinnamon - an autumn taste, which might explain my dislocated feeling of nearing the end of summer.

Our builder kindly sourced legs for the bath and threw them in for free (the legs that had arrived with the re-enamelled bath didn't fit), so we finally have a bath that doesn't wobble, and I had my first bath in it, with lavender and a cup of tea. And then of course we always have the sea. I went for a walk at the coral beach in Carraroe this week. The water was clear, but the beach was covered in jellyfish and I hadn't brought my swimming gear.

We had the first of our housewarming parties last week (hence the leftovers), with the neighbours, and now, with the building work finished, I feel more settled. But it can be bittersweet, because I miss my family in Germany more than ever. I feel at home here, but at the same time, because this is the closest to a 'permanent' home I have had here in Ireland, it brings into focus that I am separated from my orginal home.

I feel it every time a German tourist or language student comes up to us after the storytelling night to buy a book. Most of the time I am not that conscious of being a foreigner, but when I hear their accent and they spell out the name of the person they want the book dedicated to, I feel a twinge of homesickness.

As so often happens when something is at the forefront of our mind, it pops up everywhere (or we are more attuned to it). Several articles and reviews I have read in the last few weeks were about the concept of home (this book looks interesting, if controversial).

Emma Cullinan wrote a column in last week's Irish Times about moving house and starting over after over two decades of sharing a family home, and about the objects, including a lot of books, she brought to the new place: "[I]t's been a revelation as to how at one you feel with yourself when everything around you has meaning, and, as the Danes would have it, hygge (a sort of huggy cosiness)". I thought of that when we filled our new bookcase with the books that had lingered in boxes for the last ten months. On the other end of the spectrum, I also did a purge, burning diaries and getting rid of paperwork, but not before reliving the first decade of this century, with a mixture of nostalgia and relief that I am now in my "mellow thirties", as John would say. 

Then there was an interview with Jungian psychoanalyst John Hill a few weeks ago, also in the Irish Times, about his book At Home in the World: Sounds and Symmetries of Belonging.
An Irishman living in Switzerland, he talks about noticing images of the land he has left (the sea, the hawthorn bushes, the hills) coming up in the unconscious when he is away, which is when he feels home as a sense of belonging.

The gooseberries remind me of the summers of my childhood and were an immediate trigger. It must be the first time that I have had them here in Ireland (apart from jam). As Hill - who misses apple tart - says, our sense of home can have "a very sensuous basis".

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