Where is home?
I’m on a journey to find out the answer to this question.
I’m English, born in the home counties. Up until I was 30, I lived there. It blatantly was home – I had friends, a house, a job. But I didn’t feel at home. I was frustrated and longed for things; but they were so often un-pin-downable…you know, that feeling where you know it’s wrong, but you don’t know what will put it right. For a lot of those years I was obese, for the years after I lost the weight, I was determined. From the outside, I kinda looked like I was doing OK – BMW, job at Microsoft, husband. But even though I couldn’t really comprehend what was wrong, I damn-well knew something was.
Aged 30, I took some decisions. I didn’t realise back then that they were the beginning of a quest to find home; I took them ’cause I just couldn’t hack it anymore. The pain of being where I was was too great for me to hold. I ended my marriage. I took 3 months off and volunteered in Brazil and Russia. I left my high-paying golden job, took at 50% pay cut, moved to a flat-share in Brixton and cycled every day to my new job for a music charity.
These moves were the start of me marking a path in the ground. Chosing to go my own way. Saying, “what I feel matters”. The path meandered somewhat, through alterative therapy training and illness (that great life-teacher!) ’till I had the gaul to upend my life and move to the place I’d always hankered after: Italy.
Italy, sweet Italy. I’d lusted after it for so long. Renaissance paintings, Leonardo’s attitude to life, colours, melifluous language, sun, devil-may-care attitude, blue skies, magestic architecture, fading light and rolling hills.
I feel free in Italy. Why? A question that I can’t answer fully yet. It’s warmer than England. The light frames everything with such artistic beauty that it’s a joy to behold – I thrive on beauty. I feel like I’m on an adventure there; away from the greyness of England.
Is home the place where you feel free?
In Italy, part of me blossomed. I relaxed. I got healthier and happier. I creativity flourished, started blogging and built my business, Path Less Trodden. I moved to a beautiful village on Lake Trasimeno. My relationship with my musician-boyfriend grew stronger and healed me. He is not afraid to see all the parts of me that I find it difficult to look at; that society and my upbringing has taught me to reject, to be ashamed of. He accepts and loves me, fully; all of me – the dark and the light, the meltdowns, the quiet reflections and the soaring.
It was wonderful.
And then I got pregnant.
And that was wonderful too – don’t get me wrong – I’d been hoping, working towards and asking for that for a long time. But it changed everything: It was conceiving my son that got me to leave my beloved Italy and come back to the UK.
I hated the thought of coming home (‘home’? really?) but in retrospect, it was a much needed step. Running a small business as an English ex-pat in Italy is more than difficult. My business model was not sustainable in Italy and my partner’s freelancing even more unworkable.
We lived in limbo in my partner’s old home town, sheltered by the walls of his childhood house for 2 years. It was supposed to only be 1 year. But sometimes shit happens. And it damn-well did in those 2 years.
Living there, we both felt far away from ‘home’. It was a commuter-belt where most people left the house to go to the city before 7; we worked as little as we needed to, from home, in order to have the basics. The roads were jammed with cars; we didn’t have one. There was a huge supermarket at each end of town; we ignored it, choosing to buy our food direct from farmers. Designer shops lined the high streets; we bought clothes at charity shops and walked around barefoot. I tried going to mother/baby groups but came home depressed; I was looking for connection and just couldn’t find it.
We were both desperate to move on. To find a place with people whose values were closer to ours.
Is home the place where you can connect with others?
Rob had always liked Cornwall, for it’s rugged beauty and space. I knew it wasn’t right (let alone financially feasible) to move back to Italy. I figured that Rob had followed me to that country 5 years prior, so it was about time I let him take the lead. We visited and fell for Penzance, it then took us another 6 months to move Rob’s business to a place where we felt brave enough to take the leap and hope we didn’t sink.
We’ve been here 5 months now.
There are no London commuters, the pace of life is different. We’ve met many families who care about the same things we do. I’ve set up a local group of the national natural immunity network, Arnica. We live 5 minutes form the sea; every day she is different, every day she brings me perspective. I’m not there yet; I still feel lonely very often but I know the slow process of integrating into and building a community will help fill that hole.
Since being here; we’ve easily met and become part of a network of local producers – farmers and growers who are working really hard to buck the system of industrial, chemicalised, agriculture and care for and grow the most amazing food whilst also respecting the land.
These meetings have coincided with us making a conscious decision that we didn’t want to use supermarkets anymore. And the very act of not stepping inside those built-for-profits halls, or being subjected to the marketing is changing our lives. We’ve talked with the man who grows our kale, salad, cauliflowers and carrots at his plot 2 miles from where we live. We’ve visited the farm where the rare-breed pigs and cows who give their lives for us to eat live out their days in freedom. We’ve caught a glimpse of how it really happens: growing animals and cultivating vegetables on a small scale that respects people, the soil, the animal and the world’s resources. And it’s changed the respect we feel for our food, our bodies and our fellow life on earth.
I’ve felt a sniff of real connection – to the fields – to the animals – to the soil – to everything that is of this beautiful eco-system and keeps our species going.
Is home where we you can truly connect with what sustains you? Become part of that process, part of the land, living consciously symbiotically with it and life around you?
I feel a pull of my life towards the earth. I know nothing about farming, I don’t even have a garden. But I believe it’s this that’ll take me to the next level of home; the land and my connection to it’s life-giving, beautiful, mucky dirt is calling me, it wants to bring me home.
Home is like an unfurling flower; the more you look at it, the more of its subtle depth you really start to see. I’m so grateful that life gave me the opportunity to be me, to have the strength to start my quest. It’s feeling like, finally, I can see the path to the front door, smell the smoke from the burning stove and dance in the fresh air all around.
This is my painting, Home. It is on a wooden board that is 21cm by 61 cm. It is created from natural earth pigments in powder from that I mixed by hand with a milk-based glue binder to make paint. There’s a sparkle in places that comes from natural mica. The hills are those of my imagination-fired Italy. There’s a house. The view and the air up there are spectacular. It has a path. It’s possible to walk down it to civilisation and to host welcome friend and travellers. It’s home.
This is how it, intuitively, came about: