… our ideas of home …

Cartoon de Salvo

Stay home – the resounding advice to stem a globally spreading virus, made me think of what home actually means, to me, to you, to us. Is it a sheltering porch or a railway bridge providing the roof under which one can curl up and sleep? Is it a room, a flat, a house, a village, a town, a metropolis, a country, a nation? The present urgent injunction to stay home obviously refers to a space surrounded by walls.

Is home an extension of us? Is it a place to get away from habits and rituals, or a place to return to and feel safe? Is it a place that keeps others out, or a place that invites others in? Does home offer solitude? Is it place where we are cared for and care for others, or a place where we feel controlled, as in a prison, an inhibiting place, a crowded place, a dark place, a place of chaos, where we find rejection instead of intimacy? Is it an imagined place in the sky, where wisps of cloud move this way and that way, carried by the flow of air?

We shape places, ideal places, inside or outside, through the imagination.

me aged five or six

Each place I lived in I made into a temporary home, a bit of colour here and there, a few cherished objects. I have no trouble to sensually recall their ambiance … Four homes within the village I grew up in. A tiny student accommodation in Munich, followed by varies flats, rural communities, and a VW van in which I travelled through Europe. Two places in Amsterdam I remember, one horrid and surreal, the other blissful, where my son was conceived. Then a cottage in Somerset, various flats near London, a spiritual home in Surrey, and a small semi I acquired. Memories were anchored in each place.

From stories shared in my therapy practice over the years, I understand impression of our very first home wield a repetitive power throughout our life that’s difficult to shake off. Yet the experiences we share have no walls, instead, imagination has a powerful role in our ideal vision of ‘home,’ even if rarely achieved. Personal and collective memories lend us the styles, the architecture and environment we envision, we sense we had once, or will have again. Many of us are alienated from such ideal, just like the Ugly Duckling, where inner and outer worlds don’t chime. But the call is there. And the call creates a most poignant contradiction, a creative tension resulting in great works of art that link and weave vastly different scales (physically and spiritually) together and inspire new dimension of experience in all of us.

And yet we witness the heartbreak of people uprooted from lands that provided their basic needs, compelled into the unknown by famine or war. Displaced people must persevere as best they can. They carry their only remaining home with them – their body.

The body we inhabit is indeed the only physical home we absolutely own, for better or worse, which only death can take. But how many are at odds with their own bodies. And how many are at odds with nature, and the very planet we live on

Angel of the North – image by Sylvia Selzer


And here I’d first like to share the deeply fascinating process of an artist, Antony Gromley.

Don’t miss this documentary by the amazing Alan Yentob, click on the link  and a new page will open:   Antony Gromley – Imagine

He shares his childhood experience, and how he started out by making casts of his own body, to explore what it means to inhabit a body, a human life.






And then consider Carl Sagan’s tender reflections on the pale blue dot, the Mote of Dust, as in a sunbeam, the home we all have in common, a selfie, seen from afar. “Where everyone’s love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.”


“That’s here. That’s home. That’s us.”



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22 responses to “… our ideas of home …

  1. Very poignant Ashen! Well timed too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. All of your descriptions do describe ‘home.’ What we assume home will be and what it turns out to be may be vastly different. Also, over years home’s meaning and feeling may change drastically because as we age we see things so differently and we learn from our mistakes. I think your descriptions of home are ALL TRUE. We simply have to fit it into our lives.

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  3. So true, as we grow older, we must make the best of what home has whittled down to, and, as you say, fit it into our lives. ♥

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A very complicated subject. Numerous answers and definitions simultaneously apply, as you say.

    Hello from the USA. Let’s hope that scientists soon figure out ways (vaccines or other medical treatments) to prevent people from getting this virus.

    Neil Scheinin

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, Neil, home has become a complex topic as so many people are forced to migrate. Urging folks to stay ‘home’ puts the shortcomings of social systems around the globe into stark relief.
      I pray the virus can be slowed and halted in its tracks.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for these lovely and meaningful ruminations on “home.” It’s a fundamental concept to my thinking, imagination, and creativity. I’ve written six or seven songs over the past couple of years and realize that almost every one of them contains the word or the concept. I dream of my childhood home a few times each year, and have enjoyed watching its remodels, additions, a new circular driveway, a well-lit art gallery where there used to be a dark narrow hall…. The small Victorian cottage itself is long gone, but It comforts me to know I’m carrying my home with me and that it continues to evolve. Spring blessings to you, Jeanie

    Liked by 1 person

    • Spring blessings to you, Jeannie.
      The Victorian cottage of your childhood home is strong in your memory. You write songs? Is it to capture the sound and melody of places?
      My memory timeline links well with particular lights and smells. But sound is interesting to explore, including Nursery rhymes, songs, music.
      We moved a few times in the village I grew up in, and because I was a single child it was really the village where the doors of friends were always open that I considered home. I left early, like the young woman in my novel – seeking adventure, other friends/groups and families. On and off I had to learn to close my door, define my boundaries better, and respect my own needs..
      And each place and environment we live in for a while has its history to interact with 🙂 An abundance of stories.


      • Yes, my home is strong in my memory and my heart. I do write songs. Just for myself, although every now and then I’ll play a new one I’m working on for my family. I started taking ukulele lessons six years ago and this year I moved on to the guitar. My teacher encourages me to write and record my own songs. It’s been enormously fun and fulfilling. When I have ten or so that I’m happy with, I plan to make a handful of CD’s, one each for my children and grandchildren. A few years ago I decided to call it Dreams of Home, because every song contains allusions to one or both of these. 🙂
        Like you I had a neighbor whose house felt like home to me too. I was always welcome and spent most afternoons with the family of a very generous-spirited mother while my mother was at work. I have warm memories, and yes, an abundance of stories, about feeling at home in places where I was cared about and loved. I guess I was very, very lucky that way.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. That pale blue dot – The Mote of Dust. Thanks Ashen, we revise our personal concept of home fairly often I suppose. In these times may home be a place of safety.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s the best we can hope for, Susan, those of us who have home to close the door on. There’ll be a lot of soul-searching going on, since everyone’s safety is suddenly compromised by an invisible enemy, while at the same time people rely on each other, or society won’t be able to function.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Some beautiful reflections, Ashen, as usual. I do like the picture of you aged 5 or 6. It looks idyllic, like an illustration for a fairy-tale – or a scene from Course of Mirrors: an odyssey.

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  8. Perfect post for these troubled times

    Be safe

    Liked by 1 person

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