Thursday 18 June 2009

What does home mean to you?

In one of my favourite Michael Leunig cartoons the little man says I’m homesick. His wife points out his pants on the bedroom floor and tells him he is home. He looks at them and plaintively repeats himself - I’m homesick. I sometimes think of this cartoon when I crave a warm comforting cocoon to crawl into. There are times when a house is not enough. It is the way we decorate, clutter, and inhabit a space.

Home is a state of mind rather than a place. When I lived in a share house in Melbourne, I remember confusing a housemate when I said I was heading home to my parents’ house. But this is your home, he pointed out. I told him I could have two homes. Not everyone is as lucky as me. Some people must travel far to seek a refuge they can call home.

I have been thinking about home lately because Wendy has tagged me for a meme in which bloggers post 3 photos that represent ‘home’. She is passing on this meme as a way to promote Refugee Week in Scotland (15-21 June), which is about home this year. In fact, Refugee Week in Australia is 14-20 June this year and the theme is Freedom from Fear. Both weeks celebrate the idea of refuge that is sought by people who can no longer feel at home in their own country.

When thinking about three photos I considered what I have done when moving house to make a new place feel like home. I like to feel comfortable in a space. Somewhere to cook, a few cookbooks, some choice music and something to read. I surround myself with special possessions that make me sigh at the beauty or smile at the memories. A home has many layers of meaning and history that are built up over time. Three photos is not much to explore such depth. But here they are:

Home is where I can be comfortable in the kitchen. I can find the knives and forks, the coffee mugs, the sugar and flour. I understand the oven's quirks. I will pick up a tea towel and know where to put away the dry dishes. The kitchen is not just a space for food preparation but a place where I can relax and create, where I can potter and chitchat, where I love the little knick knacks which bring to mind past experiences and travels. In any new home, one of the first tasks is to familiarise myself with the kitchen and ensure the cupboards have some basic foods I can cook.

I thought of photographing my kitchen but it is too cluttered. Instead I chose to show my bread bin. It represents so many aspects of the kitchen that I love – green, beauty, history, good food and utilitarian charm. If you lifted the lid you would see it is full of paper bags rather than bread. We usually keep bread on top of it. But there was no fresh bread in the house today when I took the photo. Instead you can see some of the clutter on the noticeboard behind it. I left it there because it represents the clutter in the kitchen as well as loved postcards. There is never enough room but that is the way I love it.

Years ago my mum commented on my lack of interest in gardening and then observed she wasn’t interested till she had her own house. Now I have our own place, I am much more interested in our garden, albeit not being in green thumb league. This photo is taken in our garden with our special lemon and lime trees and a part of a chair that reminds me of enjoying the relaxing time spent in the garden in warmer weather. Even in cooler weather, I still enjoy being outside to hang the washing on the line or popping outside for a fresh bay leaf for a stew.

It is no accident that I chose a little cat ornament to represent time in the garden. One of the great attractions of the garden is spending time with Zinc. In fact, she often will come to the door and demand our company outside. Once I swore I would never live with a cat, and now it doesn’t feel like home without her. She is often inside, curled up on the bed, gazing at us from upon the stereo, snug against us on the couch. But I particularly love seeing her joy at scampering about the backyard with us.

Lastly I wanted a photo to represent the people in our house. Solitude is nice at times but sharing has such wonderful rewards. I love the sound of the front door as E arrives home from work, sitting down to share a meal, listening to music together, laughing at our silly jokes and of course the gummy smiles of Sylvia on my lap. The photo represents the people who live here, visit us and are remembered in my home and bring me a wealth of community, support, acceptance and comfort.

I am not good at passing on memes but I would like to give others the chance to help raise awareness about refugees. The rules of this meme are:
  • Think about what home means to you.
  • Titled “What Does Home Mean to You?”, post three photos which represent “home” to you and write a little about each one.
  • Include a link to the Refugee Week website
  • Tag five others to do the same.
I am tagging the following five people (but if you don’t have the time or inclination that is fine) and welcome anyone else to join in:

Cindy and Michael of Where’s the Beef?
Another Outspoken Female of Confessions of a Food Nazi
Anh of Food Lover’ Journey
Flower of Flowers at Home
Rachel of Rachel’s Ramblings


  1. Fantastic stuff... with equally fantastic bread bin! :)

  2. What a beautiful post! I love the picture of sylvia's little hand! And that breadbox rocks!

  3. Knew I'd love your post on this. And I really, really do.
    Lusting after your breadbin too!

  4. I love your bread box. =) I recently moved out to my first apartment and am still trying to make it feel homey, but as you said, things are built up over time.

  5. Thats a head scratcher I will have a think about this I want to make it a good post :)

  6. Its a lovely meme which I will contemplate when I regain my home after my partners family have departed (I'm still wondering in what calendar "a week" is in fact 10 days?)!

  7. Johanna, I love this post. You know your home with the beautiful garden is such a typical Melbourne home. And I miss it so much.

    Will be joining this theme. Just be patient with me ;)

  8. Very thoughtful Johanna. Love little Sylvia's hand and just the thought of the sound of the door is lovely. Home is that special place.

  9. I love your things that make your home home. Your bread bin is just gorgeous and I'm totally in love with your garden cat!

  10. So lovely, Johanna--and I agree that "home" is more a state of mind. That photo of your hand and Sylvia's is astonishing!

  11. Thanks Shauna - love my breadbin too

    Thanks VeganCowGirl - isn't her hand gorgeous

    Thanks Wendy - enjoyed thinking about the meme - thanks

    Thanks Ashley - it does take time to build up some nice things - I asked for household things for my 21st birthday so have had a good deal of things for a while

    Thanks Flower - it is a nice meme because it requires some thought - will be interested to see what you come up with

    Thanks AOF - you will definitely be thinking about home if you have been sharing it - look forward to your thoughts

    Thanks Anh - my garden is more concrete than is ideal but I love it - will be willing to wait as long as you need to see what you come up with

    Thanks Tanna - it is the little things that make home special!

    Thanks Vegetation - I am also in love with the garden cat but Zinc is a little suspicious when she inspects it

    Thanks Ricki - I had wondered if I should have mentioned it is E's hand with sylvia's - he has nicer hands that me!

  12. What a nice thoughtful post and lovely of you to give us an insight into your home. It looks as though Sylvia is growing into a proper little girl!


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