my hearth

Home is where the heart/h is.

I am currently reading Frances May’s “Under a Tuscan sun”, an account of how two Americans, already in love with all things Italian, fall in love with and buy an old farmhouse.  As they go about restoring the house and the surrounding land, I find myself feeling incredibly homesick and nostalgic for the times we spent in Provence. I can relate to Frances’ enchantment with the local markets, her delight in finding stall holders selling old cottons and linens to which she will give new life in Bramasole. Bramiare ? is an old Italian word meaning to yearn for. Bramasole is therefore yearning for the sun. What a wonderful name for an old house. I can picture so well the golden light of the setting sun over a hilly landscape. Two quotes from her book particularly resound with me: “You have to churn somewhat when the roof covering your head is at stake, since to sell is to walk away from a cluster of  memories and to buy is to choose where the future will take place. And the place, never neutral of course, will cast its influence” and in reference to Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space* “He wrote about the house as a ‘tool for analysis’ of the human soul. By remembering rooms in houses we’ve lived in, we learn to abide (nice word) within ourselves. He wrote about the strange whir of the sun as it comes into a room in which one is alone. Mainly, I remember recognizing his idea that the house protects the dreamer; the houses that are important to us are the ones that allow us to dream in peace.”

Yearning for the sun – that’s why we left our home in northern Europe, grey skies and rain in the long winter months for sunshine and blue skies, albeit perhaps an equally wet winter.

We recently stayed with a shaman friend (also crystal therapist and maker of essences) who decided not to clear her things away from the room we were to sleep in. On a shelf were two goddess cards, those of Hestia and Oya, the first – goddess of the hearth and the second – goddess of change.

In Catholicism the latter is worshipped as Our Lady of Candelaria where she is depicted as a  Black Madonna (see //  I have come across two of these so far, one in Luxembourg and the other in Provence.

We now spend much of our time in south western Turkey, this is Asia not Europe and I feel homesick. The house which we currently share with another family is big, light, airy and VERY damp. Because we still share it, although the sharers are due to depart early next year, the house is not mine/ours. We have not yet invested it (an old term for taking possession). There is no privacy in the garden (at the moment bare and uninviting) and I feel exposed and vulnerable, unwilling to sit outside. On the rare occasions when I do, I sit close to the house as if it will protect me. I know how important a sense of home is.

We watched our last house grow from planning stage to completion. The garden, originally a thistle patch with old plum trees, was slowly transformed into a place where wild birds came to eat at the bird table or from the bird-friendly hedgerow we planted, squirrels ran along the fence and our cats argued with the magpies. We knew and loved the house from the beginning and it almost broke my heart to leave it. As we could not sell it we have rented it to a family who care of it as if it were their own.

Coming from a home which we had built from scratch to this house which we bought when it was still unfinished but over which we had absolutely no control it is as if the house possesses us and not the reverse. We have no idea how the electrics work or the automatic garden watering system or how the water tank fills, etc.  and we are prisoners of its unreliability. Two weeks ago I got a shock when I put my hand in the stream of water from the tap. You can’t get shocks in water I reasoned with myself but the evidence was undeniable as I tried a second and third time just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Electricians have been swarming over the house for the last 3 days attempting to identify the source of the problem. Now we have reached a status quo although the problem is likely to recur. Our house may not be the guilty party; it could well be one of the other houses linked into the (very unsafe in our humble opinion) electricity system.

However, we have chosen this to be our future home and we must adapt. Easier said than done. With such a difficult language to contend with, everything is a challenge to which I am not always equal. I try but inevitably trot out the lame excuse “I don’t understand”. But, I get braver on an almost daily basis and attempt to convey my scrambled thoughts in even more scrambled Turkish. It will come, I am sure it will.

* Poetics of space, Bachelard – published in English in the 1960s, this text focuses on how we experience intimate places, and how our perceptions of houses and other shelters shape our thoughts, memories and dreams.

8 responses

  1. So right, for I have lived in houses that rejected me and houses that reached out and made friends. Thank you, Carol for sharing . Fran

  2. Electric shock in water? Have you considered calling ghostbusters? Kidding…kind of…This was a great first post. I hope that your problems disapper soon. Perphaps some sort of ritual for the house would work…

  3. You are living a life full of life. Full of the unknown. It must be good for you. I sincerely hope it’s good for you. It is a treat to read about your life as it happens there. Thank you so much for this special experience.

  4. You live in a zone of discovery, hope that water is safe soon.

  5. My heart goes out to you Carol. I am adjusting too. Mercifully I do not feel the house is rejecting me. Rather it is me who seems to have some difficulty coming to terms with renting. I have always owned my own home and the change has been more significant than I would have imagined. It is taking time but I think I can get my head around it all. Hopefully time will sort things out for you too. Meanwhile, like the people renting your home, I care for this place as though it were my own.

  6. Oh, Carol, that is so bizarre regarding the electrified water — and bit scary! Perhaps there is a message there… Must you stay in this particular dwelling? Perhaps you are destined to “take possession” of some lovely home in the Turkish countryside and nurse it back to health. Perhaps it is worth considering…..

  7. This really spoke to me. I fell into a depression when we moved into our current house. Once there it just didn’t “feel right” and I have been struggling ever since to make it home. It’s funny how tied we are to our homes. Great post!

  8. “Coming from a home which we had built from scratch to this house which we bought when it was still unfinished but over which we had absolutely no control it is as if the house possesses us and not the reverse.” These words really resonated with me because my husband and I had built our house from scratch, too, and then sold it to move to another state entirely. The house that you put so much into becomes “you.” Hard to get that feeling from any other place – takes much time and effort.

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