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 //en.wikipedia.org/Virgin_of_Candelaria). 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.