The Green Fields of Home

The Green Fields of Home

This week on Lorna’s Ginspiring Writing Prompts (or, #GinPrompts for short), Lorna asked a simple question: How far have you travelled from home? 

I’m not what you’d call a natural traveller. Wanderlust doesn’t seem to be in my blood — while I occasionally want to be somewhere else, I’d usually prefer to already be there, without the fuss of actually getting there, and no matter how much I enjoy being away from home, I also find myself constantly anticipating getting back again. I’m Bilbo Baggins before his adventure, without a lot of interest in straying.

(But occasionally I stray. This was taken at Newgrange, Ireland, in 2017.)

I like my creature comforts. My books. Food that I’ve cooked, in a kitchen I’m familiar with, safe in the knowledge that it’s probably not poisonous to me. (Although to be honest, these days I have no idea what I can and cannot digest. Thanks, IBS.)

I’ve lived in this house for nearly 22 years. We moved shortly before my first birthday, and I’ll be 23 in January (yikes). For the first eleven and a half years, I lived in the smallest room, second from the back of the house. For the ten after that, I’ve lived in the back room. I spent my childhood in a room with yellow flowery walls and blue floor, my early teen years in a pale green room (“Celtic Moor 6”, because I’m on brand like that), and the last few in a room that is a somewhat overwhelmingly bright shade of yellow.

Now, as an adult who will probably not be able to move out in the near future and the last of the children left at home, I’m preparing to occupy both of those rooms. We’re decorating the smaller one at the moment, which will be my bedroom; my current bedroom will be an office/library/living space, since it’s already almost entirely colonised by books anyway. They’ll be grown-up rooms, with more muted colour schemes than the current colour explosion. But ultimately, they’ll still be the same rooms I’ve lived in all my life.

(I fully acknowledge how lucky I am that my parents can afford for me to live at home, and also that I can have two rooms rather than one. There are some benefits to being the youngest child.)

Of course, I lived away from home during my university years, but the short Cambridge terms meant I was home as often as I was there. I left a part of my heart, a part of my sense of belonging, in the city of Cambridge when I left, and I think if given time, I could plant roots elsewhere. I have no great love of my hometown, and would love to live somewhere with more history, more books, and fewer Tories. But before anywhere else, this house is my home. Has more or less always been my home, since I don’t remember our old house at all. Feels sometimes like it always will be.

I have travelled, a little. The furthest I’ve ever been was to Canada, to visit my brother, because he moved out there in 2015. It was my first long-haul flight and, having broken my nose about two weeks earlier, that was probably my least favourite part of the trip.

The weather in Canada was unexpectedly lovely for the time of year.

Canada was nice, and it was good to see my brother again, but… part of me didn’t enjoy the huge scale of it. The fact you could drive for two days and ONLY see mountains. In England, if you drive for two days you not only see all the landscapes we’ve got to offer, but you’ll also find yourself in the sea.

Other than that, though, I’ve only really gone to places closer to home. Family holidays in France. Orchestra tours to Italy (by coach — a 28-hour journey I never want to relive), Catalonia, Germany. The wonderful thing about Europe, of course, is that you don’t have to go far to encounter entirely different cultures and languages.

But mostly — especially in recent years — I’ve stuck to Britain and Ireland. Since 2014, I’ve visited Ireland and Scotland three times each, and Cornwall, Wales, and the Channel Islands once each. I’ve spent happy weeks in the Peak District, the Lake District, and other picturesque parts of England.

I like the smallness of these islands. I like the landscape here, how green it is, how changeable. How one journey can take you through the interminable flatness of East Anglia and the beautiful hills of the Peak District, on your way up to the Borders. I like our history, and the ruins hiding under cities and out in the fields.

And of course, as a Celticist, there’s plenty outside of England to draw my attention. The folklore and music I love about Ireland, placed in context by the weird wild landscape of the Burren or the mountains in Donegal. The mountains in Wales that make you suddenly understand why there are so many stories about dragons here; the ancient seats of power in Scotland, looking out over the landscape.

Sunset over Dunadd (Scotland), January 2018

I’ve never really considered myself patriotic. I don’t own a union flag, let alone an English flag. I’m vaguely discomfited by the whole concept of being proud of where you were born, as if there’s anything meaningful about a random act of fate. It’s always too tied up in politics and ethnicity and other questions of identity. And yet…

I have no Scottish heritage that I know of. My Irish blood is distant. There’s definitely some Welsh in there, but it’s not from any family members I ever knew. My Englishness is random, and most of it can’t be traced back more than a couple of generations before we, too, were immigrants and refugees.

But these green islands feel like home.

(And while it wasn’t intentional, this song provides a pretty decent accompaniment to this post.)

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13 thoughts on “The Green Fields of Home

  1. Wow! So much to think about and respond to here!

    First off, I really relate to your feeling like Bilbo pre-adventure. I’ve pretty much always been a homebody, and while I like to read about other places, the idea of making a special effort to actually go to see them in person never much appealed to me. There’s so much wonderful and tragic right here, why shlep so far away to see another form of it?

    I also related to your discussion about your parent’s house being home. I lived the first 18 years of my life in the same house, then spent one year abroad in Israel, two years in New York in college, and then moved back home again for about a year, before I finished graduate school, got married, and moved out. During that year back at my parents, I loved the trees, the grass, my local library, seeing some of my same friends, and just being in the same community. It was nice to have a place where I so fundamentally felt I belonged.

    However, since I got married and we moved elsewhere, home is a confusing concept. It wasn’t my parent’s house and community any more, but when we lived in New York, that didn’t feel like home either. Now that we’re in Florida, it’s feels closer to home, (even though it’s geographically further from my original hometown), but I only really experienced that same feeling of belongingness, (yeah, that’s a word now), when we were in Israel for 3 weeks this past summer. Still, even there wasn’t home, because we were guests.

    The whole concept of home and travel happen to also be on my mind since we’re on the cusp of the holiday of Sukkos, where we basically leave our homes to some extent for 7 days and go live in huts that represent the Clouds of Glory that G-d protected the Israelites with when they were traveling in the desert for 40 years. While they were going from here to there to there and there and there and there, etc., it would seem that they didn’t have a home; their living structures were completely temporary, and even when they stayed somewhere for months, they didn’t know how long they would be there, and could never fully “settle”. What was the point of G-d keeping them in that state? Well, there could be several points, but one that speaks to me is that home isn’t necessarily about knowing that there’s a permanence to our abode. In our ephemeral travels in this world, being home can be just as much about who we’re with, self-perception, and why we are where we are. It can be about an internal sense of purpose and dedication.

    Hmm on rereading that last paragraph is a little vague, but I’m not sure how to go about spelling out the concept more clearly either…perhaps questions about that description or a disagreement with it, would help me refine it?

    1. No, I think I understand you! It’s kind of a less trite version of the “home is where the heart is” concept you get on throw cushions, haha. About home not being a place, but about an understanding of yourself, or people you care about, or whatever. (Well, now *I’m* phrasing things badly.) Connecting it to faith makes sense to me, too; I know a lot of people for whom their faith communities are central to their concept of ‘home’, and the first thing they do when they move somewhere new is find a new church (or equivalent) to settle in.

      I know a lot of people who’ve lived a more nomadic lifestyle than me, moving from place to place every few years, and they’ve found other ways of defining ‘home’ for them than just ‘this address’. I think perhaps it’s because I’ve primarily lived in this one place that it’s so strongly rooted in the physical for me, and maybe if my future involves less permanent settling, my understanding of it will change.

  2. I love travelling, and i’ve been lucky enough to do lots of it as I grew up. I actually got back from a trip to indonesia last week (with 12 hours in sydney too) which was super cool. I want to travel more but I also have big reservations about the fossil fuels. I know that I’m going to end up living (at least for a while) in an area of the world where I didn’t grow up, like hopefully asia or africa somewhere (obviously that covers a lot of the world). but like England/the British Isles, New Zealand is small (though we have bigger mountains and are better in every way haha jk). I think there’s an immense value to exploring the place where you live more and I’m trying to figure out how to do that better in New Zealand. And of course I have the whole of india which is…a lot

    1. Nice! Yeah, the fossil fuels thing is a concern. How do we engage with a global world without harming it? And of course there are any number of other ethical issues relating to tourism and travel, especially to disadvantaged places.

      Totally agree about exploring where you live more. There are still so many places near me where I’ve never been, and I’d like to change that.

      1. Yeah my trip to Indonesia was actually for work (…with my dad…#neopotism) and I struggle so much with knowing the impact of my lifestyle, and the fact that I cycle everywhere doesn’t make much of a difference. Everything is complicated (not that an uncomplicated world would be worth exploring)

        1. Ultimately large corporations are responsible for so much of the world’s pollution that individual consumers can’t offset it, and yet society likes to guilt-trip us for our personal choices even when they’re less than a drop in the ocean. The fact that you even think about the environment and try to look after it is significant, I think, and you shouldn’t feel too guilty about things you can’t change!

  3. I really enjoyed this post. I believe that anywhere you have the “feeling” of home is perfect. For some, that’s a physical location, for others, it’s out on the road. For some, blood relatives are “home” while others have dear friends that help them define the idea of home. Home for me is more of a concept than physical place. I go to my house to eat and sleep, but home is in the company of family, beloved friends, my church, etc. It’s any place I feel both grounded and free! Enjoy your newly renovated spaces, they sound quite inviting.

    1. I like the idea of home as a concept rather than physical place because it’s something you can take with you, and it’ll survive the changes that physical places inevitably undergo. I would like to plant my roots more in people than in bricks and buildings, but I’ve never entirely figured out how to do that.

      Thanks for commenting! :)

  4. A great response to Lorna’s prompt. I loved reading of your home life and your travel experiences. Australia is like Canada so big and roads you need to travel for days on to see only mild changes in the environment. I love visiting England and Europe for the reasons you mention, so much variety and culture within short distances. I think exploring places closer to home is something we all need to do more of. Nicely done, and good luck with your redecorating.

    1. One day I’d like to visit Australia! Partly because I have a friend who lives out in Queensland and it would be very cool to actually meet her. But the distances involved are so vast — from here to Australia, and then within Australia itself — that I have no idea when it’ll ever happen.

  5. I certainly relate to your desire to stick with your creature comforts, from the books, right down to cooking your own food, IBS is a problem for me too! Lovely to read you write about Ireland, my own appreciation for the country has grown since I left.

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