Thinking About – What and where is Home?

In a global world I’m an Earthling, a human being living upon a blue planet spinning through space. One of about 7.6 billion people who inhabit this wondrous place.

I also live in Europe along with around 743 million other people.

I live in Great Britain – a piece of rock that sticks out of the Atlantic ocean along with around 65 million other people.

I live in England, an area of Great Britain, along with around 55 million others.

And then I live in Sussex, a county in England, along with around 300,000 other people.

I also live in a smallish Sussex town near Brighton with approximately 13,000 people.

I live in house in a small street with my family.

It wasn’t that long ago when a person born near Brighton may not travel more than, say, 20 miles from where they were born in their entire lifetime. Of course there were always the explorers, but since we put down our hunting spears and bows and began to plant and farm the land, it changed our relationship to the piece of land we live upon. A smaller area of land became home, and with that loss of movement came along the ideas of the tribal area, and ultimately the nation state. More and more concepts that made us, us, and them over there, them. This is my bit of land, and that is yours. You stay there, and if you want to come over here, you need to ask us. I guess it goes to show once more that we are just another animal. And many species of animals are territorial. Could this just be our ape-like nature?

What is home?

Is it the Earth? A continent, country, a county, a town, a house? It is of course all of these things. But I spend the vast majority of my time around my home county of Sussex, visiting other places on this Island that is my home, but away from that place I call my home. The internet has given access to friends all across the world and it’s a wonderful tool to help people keep in touch. It’s also given the impression that we are all one big family (which of course on many levels we are) but again I know when I get into the car to travel across country, or on a plane to leave this island, I always have that sense that I am leaving and moving away from home. This is more distinct when I fly to another country. When I travel to, say, Scotland, I drive away from my home, but Scotland is still attached to the island of Britain. Any border between Scotland and England would disappear if all of the humans disappeared. It’s not there to a fox, a badger, a bird, so I don’t tend to feel its presence either, and when I arrive in Scotland, although I’ve moved away from Sussex, when I arrive in Inverness and my feet touch the earth, it’s the same earth as my home.

But then isn’t all earth simply separated by water? Under the water of the oceans the land continues and then rises until it reaches the surface of the water, then rises further to form the cliffs and beaches of another land. It’s all connected. So even my feeling that Great Britain is my home and separate from the USA is only an illusion created by a vast body of water.

Crikey…

For some people their home is their county of birth. For others they have to search for a place that feels like home. Some people even leave their country of birth and emigrate to a different land in search of that feeling of home. And maybe it’s always been that way, all the way back to our distant ancestors who left Africa in search of new lands. So maybe home is a state of mind, and literally anywhere can be home. I know some people who were born, grew up, and lived in one country, only to emigrate with work and just yearn for their place of birth. The Welsh have a word for that yearning. It’s Hiraeth. There is no exact english translation, but it’s like an overwhelming and overpowering yearning from home. You also hear that feeling in a lot of Irish folk songs, written by Irish people who due to famine or other hardship were forced to leave Ireland for the USA, singing of the Cliffs of Dooneen.

Then again I know people who have left the UK to set up lives in other countries, and have taken citizenship, and now call that new country, home.

So it’s not an easy thing to answer, this idea of what is home. I know I’ve lived in Sussex for the vast majority of my life, but when I go back to Cornwall, the land of my birth, I have such a love for that land it can only be that Hiraeth my Welsh friends speak of. I walk to the top of the north Cornwall cliffs, hear the Atlantic crashing onto the dark rock, hear it echo across the land, and I weep tears of love and a yearning to be back there. Yet I love Sussex too, and Sussex is also my home…

One final thought. Years ago I was in the agricultural industry and made a business trip to South Africa. I went to Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Durban, and as soon as my feet touched the earth there I felt completely at home. It was like I’d been there before, which, of course, I hadn’t. I came back and said of all the countries I had visited that was the first place other than Britain that I felt I could quite happily live. It was about 10 years later I discovered, through an ancestry excursion, that I had South African ancestry. One of my ancestors had fallen in love with a Hotentot tribal woman, and had to flee the country. They set up home in Selsey, Sussex. So maybe home is also in the DNA.

Who knows.

Even more to think about now…

By |2018-07-31T11:44:10+00:00July 31st, 2018|Categories: Thinking About|Tags: , , , , , , , |10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. John Hagman July 31, 2018 at 12:08 pm - Reply

    That’s how I feel when I come to Somerset and Cornwall. I feel at home.

  2. Cathie Rayes July 31, 2018 at 12:20 pm - Reply

    I’ve thought about “Home” a lot over the years, especially since I’ve moved so many times. For me, it’s three separate things. The first part of “home” is what I create, what I do, how I make new traditions or carry forward old traditions, how I make my living space truly mine. That home goes with me anywhere I live; it’s my heart.

    The second part of “home” is my connection to the land beneath my feet, to the spirits of a place, the people, animals, trees, the landscape of my daily life. Sometimes that connection is instant for me and sometimes it takes years. When I leave a place I have a strong connection to, I have to ask the spirits of the land to let me go. They aren’t always willing and sometimes my leaving brings us both a lot of grief, especially if that connection had been one of the instant kind. I know it would be that way if I were to visit England, which has always been home to me despite my not having been there–not in this lifetime, anyway. I do my best to create that sense of “home” here in Kansas despite my constant awareness that I’m in the “wrong” place.

    The third and most important part of “home” for me is the tie which goes deeper than blood, the tie with my partner and the tie with my spirit guide. No matter where I am or what I do, I cannot be at home without them. We are Home, the three of us together.

  3. terri July 31, 2018 at 12:31 pm - Reply

    that song….gives me goosebumps, makes my heart ache for something from long ago and makes me cry….goodness gracious! i have always had such reactions to songs about ireland (kilkelly ireland comes to mind…)….sigh….nice blog…. )O(

  4. Rebecca July 31, 2018 at 4:10 pm - Reply

    I love to travel. I love to see new landscapes and new places. I love the mountains and I love the oceans. I love the forests and the rocks. I even love the great deserts that stretch out with their strange rocks that look like statues from the gods. But when I leave North Texas and it’s great open vistas, I find the feeling you are mentioning. The longer I am away the more I miss it. It is not that it is beautiful, it is not ugly by any stretch of the imagination, but there is nothing noteworthy or outstanding as far as beauty. It is not that it is unique, there are other places around Texas that are similar. I think it has to do with the view. When you’re raised in the open country, with the wide sky above, and the wide plains below, and your vision stretches out to hold all of it- Hills, Forest, mountains, they begin to feel oppressive. We are the sky people. We are the people of the Staked Plains. Like the Hawk and the Horse, we prefer to see far and wide, to feel the lightness of the sky arching vaulted over us, and our Mother spread out in languid repose below.

  5. Char Lewis July 31, 2018 at 4:11 pm - Reply

    I grew up on an island, Cape Breton, and it’s such a beautiful place. Land, sea and sky. with a rich celtic culture, music, dance and language.
    But unfortunately, thousands of sons and daughters of Cape Breton find that they have to leave their beloved island to find work. They go all over the world, but they always call Cape Breton “Home of my heart”. Most of us ‘Capers’ will stay away and work for the typical 30, 35 years until it’s time to retire. That’s when we scarper back home to live out the rest of our lives in the beautiful tranquility that is home.
    Others will take seasonal work, and sacrifice time with their families to go far away for months at a time. But they always come back. I think it’s the culture and the collective knowledge that Cape Breton is home to all of us that are from there. There have been many songs written about the longing for home by some very talented Cape Breton musicians.

    https://youtu.be/eo0YNJ2XDD0

    https://youtu.be/LaILRle8RUI

    https://youtu.be/4oNPBhJqVmw

    Just to name a few.

    I always thought of the old saying, Home is where the heart is, and as long as I’m with my husband, no matter where we are, I’m home.

    Great blog /|\

  6. Suzanne July 31, 2018 at 8:43 pm - Reply

    Hi Damh,
    It is heritage. As a family historian you begin to see patterns in places lived in and jobs or hobbies that belong to our ancestors.
    Themore you talk to other people digging in the past the more you see it is not just a fluke.

  7. Margaret Coles August 1, 2018 at 10:36 am - Reply

    Hello all, I have been a nomad most of my life. At one time, Glastonbury was considered my home, then home can be where ever your loved ones are. I have lived in The Forest of Dean for 23 years and especially where I live now, by the River Severn, I feel at home, comfortable with the community. Trees have always welcomed me where ever I encounter them. I regard where we come from, the spiritual realms as our true home, this physical life is an expedition, to experience, share, love and serve. Love to all, Margaret.

  8. SteveT August 1, 2018 at 5:09 pm - Reply

    Home is where you are accepted for being yourself. I think that what feels like ‘home’ to me is a place where the spirits accept my presence and welcome (or perhaps just tolerate!) me. So what determines which spirits of place will accept me and which won’t? On a spiritual level, I can’t tell; I just know that some places seem to welcome me to stay, some say “Come and visit whenever you like but don’t think you can grow roots here.” and some say “Pass through but don’t stop.”

    If I were to try to analyse it in more physical terms, I would put it down, ultimately, to the geology of the land. The nature of the bedrock determines the topology and soil type, which determines what ecosystems can develop and, with the expansion of humankind, what agriculture flourishes and what building materials were used for housing. You can usually tell which area of the country (often which ‘ancient’ county for example) is shown in a photograph without quite knowing why but, if you analyse it, it will come back to those features I’ve just mentioned. As an animist, I respect the rocks as the elders among the entities, those that ‘set the tone’ and allow other entities, even us, to join them.

    Picking up the point about Irish folk songs celebrating places; I’ve noticed that when many Irish folk groups introduced their members they usually say something like “and on bodhran X from Y”. Members of the group are all given a ‘home base’. How nice to be so proud of where you come from that it forms part of who you are. I’ve never noticed English folk groups doing this, have you?

  9. Jeff Stilson August 1, 2018 at 7:14 pm - Reply

    Home is truly conceptual, as both my and I have found. My wife moved here to the States from Poole, 16 years ago. She was finding it difficult to “fit in”. The people she was in regular contact with were less than accomodating shall we say. 10 years ago she met this wierdo (me) and got moved 100 miles north. It’s grim up north. But she felt more accepted.
    Just last year she worked very hard and got her citizenship. She’s very proud of it and so am I. It was a struggle, but worth it. She feels she finally belongs, despite the stereotypical attitudes here.
    Prior to that we had gone back to England for a visit and then her father’s funeral. This is where an epiphony had struck me.
    I have lived, or tried to, in many places in this country. I though I was happy in each of them, but not really. With each place inEngland we visited (especially Stonehenge), I felt more at home with each new place. Ben doing non-holiday type things felt right, like I was at home. Many people made feel welcome and at ease. The unique English attitude was my feeling. It broke my heart and stiil does to have left. I have never wanted to call someplace so much in my life.
    The last time we were over there, my wife realized how homesick she was and how much she missed Poole and England. We decided that when we can afford it, we are most definitely moving…home. Yes, it is all in the perspective.
    So Damh, next you hear some idiot yelling his fool head off at a show with an American accent that may very well be me. I apologize in advance.
    Peace, Love and Mead!

  10. Fabienne Shaw August 1, 2018 at 7:48 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this beautiful text, Damh Yes, no borders when no humans…As for me, every time I come to England, be it Somerset or Manchester, I come home. The land feels more familiar, more nourishing, more comforting, more “home” than Belgium, where I grew up,… Funny…
    17th century English blood still running through my veins, no doubt about that <3
    Much love to you

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