I was not born here*

I was not born here.

But I choose to live here.

I am, like all but a few, a transplant.  An alien come lately to this land. Transported by choice and chance from one end of the world to another, arriving partially formed and full of brave ideas about shape and space and the turning of the world and the place of the seasons.

But most of what I knew when I arrived turned out to be wrong.  Most of the knowledge I had gathered had to be unlearned and reshaped.

When I work in my garden, in summer dust or winter damp, the plants that look old and sick or tired often have pot-bound roots.  Tight packed roots that go round and round within the boundaries of a long gone pot.  Roots shackled to a ghost.  Old formed, shaped elsewhere, rejecting the call of new soil, rejecting the chance of novelty and change.  These are roots that cling to the past, never making a connection with the world, the soil, in which they now grow.  These are the roots of plants that will never thrive.  These are the roots of a plant that will often die before its time.

The roots I brought with me to Australia had first grown in the soil of Somerset; damp soil, mild soil, soil that flooded in winter and rarely dried in summer.  My roots expanded north where, baffled by soils poisoned by the hand of industry, they grew sick.  Good luck transplanted them into the stony, but fertile ground of the Lake District, where more good luck started my journey to Australia.

Roots grow used to their own soil, and take time to react.  They are not fast paced like leaves that can blow in the wind and take on new patterns and ways of growing.  Leaves react to surface changes – the rules of sports, the sizes of drinks at the bar and the name of clothes you wear to swim – changes that can be swept away with just the stroke of a pen or the turn of a celebrity’s phrase.  Roots live at a different pace, in a deeper place.  Roots respond to the slower reality of place and time.  They respond to older rhythms, and, in the form of their growth, they hold a history of where they stand.

The pace of modern life encourages us to grow leaves, but we would be better off tending to the growth of our roots.

Roots need feeding and gain much from the sugar of daily leaf life – but their domain is that of soil, of water and of space.   To give myself some understanding of the place I now was, I went in search of those same three things.
First

I have been in Australia for less than two weeks, mainly in Melbourne, head spinning and my roots looking backwards into the security of the past, when I first visit Wilson’s Promontory.  There are headlights in the rear view mirror and darkness on the sides of the road.  I do not really know where I am.  I have no sense of where I am going.  North and South seem reversed, east and west a mystery.  There are bright and mobile eyes shining in the grass and two watchful pairs glittering from a roadside tree.

We pull the car over to look; a koala and fur-clinging baby are wrapped around a twiggy thin trunk.  This is an unlooked for novelty.  If ever there was a moment when I step through the back of the wardrobe and know that I have entered a new land, this is it.  I can feel both the uncertainty and the excitement of the new and (for me) the unknown.  New places are shaping around me.  We drive on into the darkness, knowing that behind me the door has closed on the possibility of unknowing.

There are more eyes in the darkness, more reasons to stop, but in the end the pressure of arrival overwhelms the instinct for investigation.   We drive on in leaf edged darkness with the brightness of road signs and white lines for guidance.

Any arrival at night keeps things hidden.  Only a wobbling circle of torch glow shows the way; only the brightened end of the tent gives up its secrets.  Starlight.  Moonlight.  Waves crash, solid and distant.  As I sleep that first night, sounds and smells start to soak into the soil around my roots.  The loft of the sleeping bag feels warm and familiar; a kind of home, but all else is new.  Dawn reveals the detail that the night had hidden.  A passing burrow-bound Wombat.  The laughing call of a Kookaburra.  The startling brightness of Rosellas, waiting with a well practised eye and a persuasive tilt of the head. A tangled bank of new diversity now surrounds the tent, last pitched on the open fells of the English Lakes.  The morning coffee tastes the same, but little else does. There is novelty at every turn. I have that kid in a toyshop feeling of excitement, where everything is new and desirable.  I pack my bag with far too much gear, still loaded with the possibility of unforeseen rain or unseasonal frost.  My seasons have not adjusted, my expectations have not adapted.  I carry the burden of unknowing into a summer morning.  By the end of the day my shoulders feel a pressure caused by that lack of knowledge.  But every dusty step and every rucksack creak brings a small grain of knowledge.  And when that knowledge reaches my roots they begin to change shape.

Black shapes in the treetops follow us at a safe, but inquisitive, distance.  In other places or other times this may be unsettling.  A murder or an unkindness.  Worse still, a parliament.  But this is something far more welcome.  With calls like tin whistles and children’s toys, a group of Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoos seem to be shadowing our passage through the bush.  Wonderfully large and impossibly exotic to eyes raised on eave-stuck sparrows, I cannot help but stand and watch.  It’s impossible not to see human characteristics in such birds, and it’s perfectly clear how myths and legends could be built around them.

Trees push branches over the paths, casting welcome shade and softening the sharp edges.  The views are concealed by a cloth of blue grey leaves, most noises are covered by the warm hum of insects and all but the strongest smells are masked by the vapour of oils leaking from the hot leaves.  This is a smell of childhood winters, of oils dripped on pillows or pyjamas, to push back the congestion of winter colds.  These are memories from dozens of years and thousands of miles away.  The taproot, around which change will come, still runs deep.

I spend my first Australian camping night at Refuge Cove.  Neither that remote or that unusual, it is, none the less, remarkably different from that English fell side.  Sleep does not come easily as I listen to new noises and imagine their source.  There is nothing to be afraid of, but there is much to wonder about, and my brain buzzes at a rate that precludes sleep.  I wake the next morning with a dry mouth and a sore right shoulder.  Tea fixes one and stretching does little for the other.  Nobody else seems to be awake as I walk down towards the arc of beach inside the headlands that form the refuge.  Silver gulls sit on the golden yellow sand, and waves, slight in the early brightling sun, wash up the beach.  My tea is warm but overdrawn, bitter, but necessary.  I have never woken in a place like this before, but I know that it will not be the last time that I do. Something grows, some connection forms.

From that moment onwards, from that first morning tea, I will never feel strange calling this place The Prom rather than by its full name. I have gained a degree of familiarity; we are on first name terms.  Later that morning I leave Refuge and pass back through Sealer’s, places with abbreviated names, places named in the same way I named fishing spots and pubs many years ago.  Places that you thought you knew, places where you knew you could slow down, stand still and grow roots.

Winter

If you go in the summer you see one side of the Prom; if you go in the winter another one is likely to come looking for you.

Summer is all crowded tents and bikes lent into bushes or left flat on grassy banks.  Summer is all teenage romances and the heartbreak of the end of two weeks at Tidal River.  It’s an outdoor cinema, queues at the bathroom blocks and the near constant smell of barbeques.

Winter is empty, with single figures in the distance, scarf wrapped and gloved.  Winter is the company of Sooty Oystercatchers and Hooded Plovers on the beach. On most days you are glad of a coat and grateful for a hat.

In winter, the wind and rain pluck at door edges, coat cuffs and zip lines. On winter days the winds are from Antarctica and the rain is heavy and always cold.  But it is the time between the rains that makes the difference.  In winter the air is crystal brittle clear, the views go on forever. Rain may rattle at the windows, but it washes away the grit and dust of summer to leave the air as clean as anywhere on Earth.  Each breath, each lung full a tonic for the hazy days of summers and weeks in a lifeless chill-filtered office.  On the headlands, even on the beach, it may be easier to sit than to stand, but it is always easy to breathe.  And if the rain does not stop, what of it?  The technology that took us to the Moon also gave us waterproofs and warm clothing.  The empty paths are calling, and the short days of winter bring out the animals.

Wombats by the side of the path, a chunky animal that leaves a remarkable cubic calling card.  Kangaroos and wallabies, fleet on their large feet, still flee from disturbance, but pull up much quicker than in summer.  With paused, over the shoulder glances they hold their ground and wait for the fright to pass. Emus stride around, often in loose groups, peck, peck, pecking at the ground.  Without the constant background noise of summer visitors to drive them away animals appear in a way that gives a hint of possible past abundance.  Every winter bush holds the chance of a discovery or sight in the way that the summer never has.  On campsites, slow to recover from the summer suffocation of plastic tent bottoms, Galahs mine for roots and shoots.  Slow rhythmical digging, moving forward a step at a time, normally in company, often quietly talkative.

Winter rains after the dry of summer bring forth growth.  To think of this southern winter in terms of its northern namesake is to miss the point of the season.  This southern winter is different, lacking the stillness and plant sleep of the north.  Where the grass grows it is fresh and green.  Kangaroos, wallabies and wombats gather where the food is good and the living is easy.

About half way along the road from the park gate to Tidal River is an area of open ground and winter growth grass.  This is an abandoned World War 2 airfield, a left over from when the Prom was used to train Commandos in arts far more deadly than camping and nature study.  Today it is home to the kind of wildlife beloved of tourist brochures and overseas travellers.  We call this area Icon Field – and so do the select band of visitors we have shared it with.  Nothing in wildlife watching is completely reliable; but Icon Field is as close as it gets.

Maybe it’s the contrast with the often-grey winter skies, or forgotten sunglasses, but when the sun shines in the winter the beaches are so bright they hurt your eyes.  The light bounces back from sand grains so uniform and perfect that they squeak underfoot as you walk.  It is almost impossible not to scuff your feet, so wonderful is the startled sound the beach makes under footfall. Squeaky Beach indeed.

Winter rain runs down the rounded faces of the rocks and boulders bringing out the rich golden colours.  Crystals catch the light and sparkle as the ever-present wind ripples the sheen of water that covers them.

In winter The Prom is alive in a way the brutal heat of summer supresses.  It’s open and wild.  It’s not quite free of human forces and interruption, but it’s very close.  From choice, I now go there in the winter.
Fire

The Prom was not the only place to burn that year.  The fire season ran long and hot; we all awoke, one Sunday morning, to find that whole communities had disappeared overnight, that so many people had died that even the term catastrophe did not have the full measure of what happened on the hills just an hour or so from Melbourne.  Fire had taken control of the landscape and reshaped it, just as it may have done in the past.  Fire made a mockery of our belief that somehow we live above the laws of nature, that the natural flow of cause and effect could be circumvented by technology.  It made a mockery of our claims that we understand the land on which we live.   The fire landed a hammer blow on communities that had developed, quite literally, in the line of fire.  I have no idea how people could recover from that kind of loss.  And visiting the fire grounds, even to support those who survived, felt dangerously close to a kind of ghoulish voyeurism.

But visiting the bush was different; the bush would recover as evolution selected.  Seedpods cracked open after the fires had passed and smoke triggered the release of millions upon millions of seeds.  Fire is as much a part of our ecosystems as wind and rain, and at the Prom I was able to see the first, baby steps of regrowth.

I had watched the fires track over the Prom from their lightning strike origins in the east towards the sea to the west.  Winds fanned and fed the flames and fires skipped ahead of the main front, seemingly eager to reach the sea.  In some places it did.  No human lives were lost, and people suffered no more than inconvenience, stress and the disruption of plans.  But what the fire did do was wipe the slate clean of years of growth.  The slow process of succession, the tic-toc clock of ecological change, was taken back to almost zero, and the land would have to recover.

It was over a month after the fires had died before I managed to get back to The Prom.  Concern over safety, of falling trees and broken paths, had kept the park closed, but now it was open.

The sea was still sparkle blue, the rocks a rich gold.  The sky was still huge out over the fringes of the Southern Ocean, but much of the land was charcoal black and ash grey.  A dense black that sucked in the light, so that it looked like the land was covered in standing shadows, and a pale grey that looked as if a mist had settled, solid, on the ground.  Although the fire fields had long gone cold, burnt leaves were still falling.  The bare bones of the land poked through where the land had been stripped of its softening growth.   Now that the plants had been stripped away, the full detail of the land showed through.  Dozens of hills and sand dunes, distinct but small, lined the road where before the bush had given an illusion of smoothness.   The shape and colour of the land was hauntingly familiar; pockmarked and grey it looked like a black and white – grey scale really - picture from the Western Front, but with mud replaced by dry ash.  And no matter how hard I looked it was almost impossible to reconcile the vision with the memory.  So much had been taken away that the reference points were all gone.  And when you did find some place – a turn in the road, or hillside crag – that seemed familiar, it was just a fragment.  It was like meeting a work mate unexpectedly at the pub and knowing you know his face, but not being able to work out from where because all context had been lost and the face was dissociated.  Pulling to the side of the road I got out of the car and the landscape still smelt of smoke and ash; the scent given off by old bonfire sites and campfires being turned over before a new fire is lit.  Even a few strides through the charcoaled bushes left your legs black scored with the calligraphy of fire.  So present were the ghosts of the fire that the black lines were drawn without me being aware I was being touched.  The lines were now.  The fire was history.  But a new story was being written on me.

But just as happens in a war, there are survivors of even a landscape wide fire.  Gums that had been scorched rather than incinerated were already putting out new shoots and leaves.  Buds protected by insulated bark or fed from underground stores of food, swelled to produce new growth.  The limbs of trees were coated with a haze of new leaves, so that they looked fuzzy and ill defined.  As the wind fluttered the new growth, the black of the fire-scarred branches below showed through, so that the whole limb seemed to ripple in small waves. At ground level, shoots, strong and green in the abundant light, pushed through the charred soil.  Everywhere life was awakening from an ash bed.  For a place that had been described in the media as ‘destroyed’ there was an abundance of life.

It would seem that I am not the only one who needs to grow roots in the reality of Australia soil.

Through summer sun and winter rain, through the acrid smell of old smoke and rush of new growth, my roots expand and reform.  Each step, each season, adds to the accumulation of experience.  And with experience comes knowledge, and the slow shift of assumption and expectation.

I was not born here.


But now I live here.

(* This is a piece I entered for a writing competition, organised by The Nature Conservancy in Australia.  Unfortunately, I did not make the final short list of pieces.  I have posted it here in its original form - i.e. without images.  Let me know what you think)

Two Kinds of Homecoming


‘Where are you from?’ is a question I am often asked. 

The thing that makes people ask this does not stand out like a sore thumb, it’s more like it stands out like a sore ear. 

(I have often been asked ‘What planet are you from?’ but the reasons for that is entirely different.)

I don’t sound like I come from here, and people, used only to the limited accents they hear on TV, have difficulty placing me.  Lacking the nasal inflection of more long-term residence of this continent marks me out as different.  Now, it’s as plain as the nose on my face that I have no real deficiency when it comes to the organ needed for ‘nasal inflection’, but I still can’t get it right. 

But as time pass I find it harder and harder to answer that simple, repetitive question.  By the end of this year I will have lived longer in Australia than in the county that gave me my accent – Somerset.  Does 19 years of dwelling, over 35 years ago, still define where I am from?  Is the ‘from’ nothing more than a factual accounting of birthplace and the majority of childhood?  Will I remain some form of outsider until my accent fades and I sound like the people around me?  And what would happen if in moments of inattention, or cider induced verbal clumsiness, my Somerset accent pops back to the surface?  Would this verbal chimera be a better description of where I am from than the older, single source vintage?  Who knows?

Questions asked in the hypothetical bring answers in the abstract, and the reality lies untested.  Bias. Wishful thinking.  Image making.

‘Home is where the heart lies, but if the heart lies, where is home?’  (Fish)

I point the car south, away from the Lakes and towards Somerset.  Minutes turn into hours, the miles click over, the children chatter; anonymous coffee; jelly snakes, brought for a walk on the hills but overlooked on the day.  We pass through the Midlands, which, to me, are a grey space of unknown places.  Only the service stations have any degree of familiarity, with an architecture that has not worn well over the years and a cheesy spread of franchise food.  These grey ribbons of concrete make a mockery of the idea that it is better to travel than to arrive.  After a gallon of Costa’s coffee the arrival cannot come soon enough.


We pass a sign for Gloucester and I know that the back of the journey has been broken.  In the past this city marked the northern edge of all I knew, and beyond must have been the Midlands – which is laughably incorrect.  Apart from a few day trips in the height of summer and an annual Scout camp, my world revolved around the edges of northern Somerset.  A small place, essentially invisible to the rest of the world except for straw chewing caricature and songs about cider and tractors.   In an indication that at least part of me must be rooted in this place, my toes still curl in pain at the sight and sound of such things on TV; even when the village is elsewhere, the local idiot (a phenomenon that largely disappeared with the coming of the railways) seems to be cast from the south west. 

Even for a person that had such a stay at home upbringing as I did – mortgage stress and low wages effectively prevented much in the way of holidays and travel – I was surprised at how many of the place names on the journey south rang bells.  Exits from the motorways would point to places I had never been, but for which I had constructed some form of mental picture.  As I approached Somerset that started to change.  The place names were still as familiar, but what made them different was the memory of place that went with them.  Places where I scared myself witless in a kayak, places where I fished for chub with limited success, but at least no scarring.  And eventually I come to places that were everyday.  Places where I bought books and underpants (and was embarrassed to find I had selected them in a range of sizes as well as colours).  Places where people knew what I drank and knew what our weekend bread order was.  Places where people ignored me because my clothes were unkempt, my shoes were unpolished and our car was rusty and old.  Places where people swore before pronouncing my surname.  The place where I grew up.

If this place really was home, then it was a small place indeed.  We were staying in an old converted farm house on the outskirts of Shepton Mallet, a town less than half an hour from where I was born, and I recognised very little of it.  The railway bridge on the way into town was familiar, as was the general location of a second hand shop much visited by my parents. I knew that there was a fish and chip shop that was much visited by my brother, and that Babycham, a sparkling perry and the first alcoholic drink to be advertised in British TV, had been invented and brewed there, but that was about the sum of it.

The farmhouse was down a side lane of surprising narrowness and abundant vegetation.  Such road signs as were present were old and ambiguous; this was the kind of place my Mum would have called ‘the back lanes of…….’ the exact location of which would have only been known to her and her imagination.  A tractor equipped with a hedge trimmer was flaying the living flesh from the tops of the leafy borders, producing that musty smell that only elder makes.  I’m sure that in the background, above the mechanical din and the screams of broken buds, I could hear the ghosts of hedge layers past weeping.  Maybe.


After a brief failing of confidence we arrived at the farmhouse.  It was built, as they are in this part of the world, from stones the colour of pale butter.  The mortar between the rough-cut stones was wonderfully imprecise, a patchwork of different blends and varieties that must catalogue a dozen renovations and restorations.  Sticking out from the walls were hooks and wooden beams whose purposes had long since been forgotten.  The buildings formed a square around an ornate garden, with three sides formed by converted barns and a forth being the original farmhouse.  The roofs were spotted with lichen circles and bundles of moss, the products of clean air and abundant rain.  Standing outside the square of buildings you could see that the land fell away in all but one direction. The only exception was the route taken by the road, which rose away behind the homestead.  In all directions the overwhelming experience was green.  Grass, woodlands, bushes, fields.  For eyes used to the muted summer colours of Australia, such intensity was almost painful. Cones long rested from underuse were firing with machinegun regularity; for a colour associated with cool and shade it was remarkably bright.  Even after the passage of 30 years it felt familiar. 

But not everything was the same.  Somewhere down in the valley below the buildings a buzzard was mewing like a cat.  Long drawn out calls that carried clearly through an atmosphere thickened by the smell of the cut hedge and alive with the buzz of insects.  The story of the buzzard is one of rare recovery.  Hunted as vermin, killed by pesticides and then inadvertently starved when myxomatosis wiped out the rabbits on which it fed, the buzzard had reached its nadir when I was a kid.  It was a rarity, a bird that was hanging on (just) in the western reaches of England where much of what passes for the wild could be found.  Seeing one was unusual, and a likely highlight of the day.  As I grew up, they grew back and are now the most common bird of prey in the UK – and of course I am now a rarity there myself.  Some people now claim that the buzzard has reached plague levels, which probably shows how far we are from having any understanding of natural abundance.  The bird kept calling and I kept listening, but it never became more than a speck on the horizon, a mote of wildness drifting over the fields and badly treated hedgerows.



Below the house were hazel bushes, heavy with nuts.  My mother may have insisted that they were filberts – I never knew the difference and I have left it 35 years too late to ask. 

A woodpecker – green – yaffles in the distance.  Later in the week, it, or its progeny, terrorise the ants in the lawn near the house.  With heavy beak stabs it pulls back chunks of grass to find its food.  One step at a time I move closer, aware of how loud the clack of my camera shutter is.  Eventually I push my luck too far and the bird takes flight, pauses on a wire fence and disappears over a hedge. 

The whole scene that unfolds before me is strikingly familiar, but also noticeably strange.  It feels like walking into a well-known room, maybe your bedroom, and finding the wallpaper is still the same, but all the windows are in different positions.  You can see things that you know and think you understand, but sticking their heads out from deep cover are things that are different and unexpected.  You know that it’s not memory that is failing, but reality that has changed.  But that’s hard to accept.  Memory fixes things in place, crystallises experience into certainty, and allows for no change.  The world turns, but memory becomes the fixed point.   It’s reassuring and simultaneously disconcerting.  

At such times you need an anchor to hold you in place while your head spins.

You need family.  You need friends.  And luckily I had both.  We mix wine with memories and add a dash of news.  We share food at a long table. In hindsight it seems like a communion to real friends rather than imaginary ones, a reconnection of things shared and understood.  In hindsight it seems that old friends are the best reason to come home.

For a very long time I used to take the same walk every evening.  A constitutional that took me from my front door, through Stratton-on-the-Fosse, which was only ever called Stratton, and back over fields full of inquisitive cows to my front door.  I suppose the whole walk took about an hour.  Days of my life probably disappeared in that journey.  I normally walked on my own.  Now I was walking the path in reverse; starting in Stratton and heading for my old front door.  And I was not alone.  Two children and my best friend/wife came along too.



The village school now sat on the edge of my old pathway, and even that has changed from the last time I had seen it. I had returned a few years earlier, just in time to see my father (which sounds far too formal) before he died.  Just before I became an adult orphan, which comes to most of us, but is none the less a strange place to find yourself.  The top stone stile at the entrance to the Drang, a old pathway between two roads, and the stone steps below were just as polished as I remembered them – and I could not help but think of what my contribution had been to this sheen in a hard surface.  The path itself was a little overgrown, with moss and other plants forcing their way through the surface.  There was a handrail along the wall on the steepest section of the path that had never been there before.  Maybe the people who still use, or know about, the path have become old and few and far between.  Maybe it’s a through way that has more of a past than a present or a future.  Maybe it’s path that has more importance in memory than recent use.

Maybe it’s just a path.

There is an extra window, high above the front door.  The bay windows to the left hand of the door have been replaced.  The patchwork of stones and mortar in the walls is still clear, as is the difference between the stonework between my house and the one to the left.  Only it’s not my house anymore.  If ever there was a time and place where circles collide and pathways intersect it’s here and now; standing outside the house in which I was born, telling my own children about what was behind each of the windows.  My brother’s bedroom.  The breakfast-room; where everything happened.  The lounge; where nothing happened and the best furniture in the house stood unused.  My parent’s bedroom; the room into which my mother would retreat for days on end, blinded by migraine or medical electricity.  A house full of memories, some which I struggle to recall, and some I wish I could forget.

To my surprise the front door of the house is opened by the current owner, understandably concerned about the appearance of a family seeming to claim ownership of his property.  To my ever-greater surprise he invites us inside.  This is strange and unexpected.  While the bones of the house remain the same, much has changed.  The stairs, which used to twist through half a circle, have changed places, walls that were made of wood have been replaced by stone and brick and most of the rooms have changed name and role.  Remarkably, in the back yard the two deep, square form porcelain sinks that we moved from inside the house to outside are still being used to grow flowers.  From the backyard I looked up to see my old bedroom window, but it was not there, buried by renovation and extension.  Maybe that was for the best.  These are old oceans in which to swim.  Hot and cold.  Spring and summer.   My birth unremembered, my mother’s death, two days after a first kiss.  The embarrassment of unkempt corners, peeling wallpaper and pervasive damp.  Before I leave I pass on the story of the ‘letter box’ by the door – a window the size and shape of a letterbox that opened to a small alcove where the mail was sorted.  This is the story I was told.  Who knows - it may even be true.

But despite the genuine welcome of the new owners, the experience becomes increasingly strange.  The place is too familiar and too different.  It’s a little like the feeling on waking and being unsure if what you recall is a memory or a dream; the evidence of your eyes conflicts with the sense of your own understanding. 

I was glad to step outside, where the road curved in the way it always had and the old rail bridge was still in place with its heavy shape and grey stonewalls.  It is strange to think of what has changed and what has remained the same. 



Away from the village we head towards Wells and Glastonbury.  Old towns that, at their heart at least, seem to have changed less than I expected.  We drive over the Mendips, which was where I spent much of my time as a kid.  Priddy Ponds with their easy perch and more elusive rudd.  The paths are less worn than I recall and the weed beds extend closer to the banks.  There must be less traffic and more growth.  Kids stay at home, corralled by society that disapproves of their inactivity, but is too fearful to let them roam free.  The changes wrought by nature seem less shocking than those brought about by changes in fashion or the capricious nature of fashion.

Priddy, with its splashing fish and bright bodied dragonflies, seems more like home than the house that has changed for the better.  A small hawk, maybe a Merlin, flashes over the pool and on the horizon Long Barrows connect the ground to the sky.  Here I do not feel like a guest.  Here I feel at home.

Later in the week I pull bags from the back of a taxi and unlock my front door. Here I do not feel like a guest.  Here I feel at home.

As obvious as it may seem, home is a word richer with meanings and ambiguity than its four letters would suggest.  But what ever it means, I’m glad to be there.