Home is where the land is

When does a house become a home and when is a home more than just a place to live?

The feeling of home is an often intangible concept of where one feels inexplicably and intrinsically connected. We often refer to home as the house in which we live, where we grew up, or an area of attachment. While these are common associations, the sense of home means something different to everyone. In Island Home: A Landscape Memoir, Tim Winton explores how home is not just a house, the people or a city where one lives, but is rather developed through a deeper connection to the land itself.

Image: Penguin Random House

Image: Penguin Random House

Before delving any further though, I couldn’t help but ask myself, 'What does home actually mean to me?' Surprisingly, the first image that sprung to mind was a childhood memory of crawling around the backyard on all fours looking for bugs under rocks, climbing old, weathered trees and the scent of freshly cut grass eclipsing a twilight game of backyard cricket with the neighbours. To me, the immediate image of home was a mixture of both the people I lived with and the environment in which I grew up. Furthermore, home was an overwhelming sense of peace and contentment where I felt so assured of myself, that the outside world mattered very little. Even as you read this, the sense of what home means to you might become apparent.

Winton’s landscape memoir wondrously draws upon a host of different experiences and contemplations of how home is influenced firstly by childhood memories, but also formed and changed over time. Like many of us, the concept of home for Tim Winton has changed with age. Winton explores how he relished the idea of living overseas to work, yet when he finally arrived and lived there, it never felt like home: 'While I was duly impressed by what I saw, I could never connect bodily or emotionally.’

Interestingly, the feeling of home is most strongly experienced with an emotional attachment to a place of residence, even if we no longer live there. For example, Winton aptly summarises this by saying,

The ground feels firm beneath my feet. I don’t live there anymore, but it still feels like home.

For others, the connection of home may be something else entirely, such as the morning chorus of birds, endless days playing in the garden, family trips to the beach, a certain type of food cooked by parents, the pattering of little feet echoing through the corridors of the house, or falling asleep in front of a crackling fire.  For Winton, the feeling of home is felt through his inexplicable connection to the Australian landscape - the toing and froing of the tides, the Fremantle Doctor in the late afternoons, and the soil beneath his feet.

In the end, though, home is where the heart is and as Marcus Tullius Cicero said, ‘A home without books is like a body without a soul.’ Winton’s Island Home is a highly recommended read that not only the explores the concept of belonging, but allows us to gain an appreciation of the simple things that make up our everyday lives and the value of land in creating a sense of home.

Island Home: A Landscape Memoir is the second title in Winton's autobiographical trilogy. All three books in the series are available to purchase from Penguin Random House.

To read our review of Tim Winton's Land's Edge: A Coastal Memoir, see here.

Banner image of The Gap in Albany, WA is courtesy of Jan Hazevoet, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52468532