Whither my life?

Belonging, Home

I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. Make that a lot overwhelmed.

Very unexpectedly, I spent most of last week back home in Perth, attending a family funeral. Now I’m back in Canberra, cold again, and feeling stressed by all the stuff that accumulated in my absence such as insurance policies and performance reviews.  None of this is helped by the bug that I picked up off my niece.  It was thoroughly incubated in the flight home (apologies to my fellow travellers) and is now hammering away at my sinuses.

There aren’t many good things that come out of funerals. One of them is this: you get to carve out a little circle of time which is protected from the astounding tedium and terror of dealing with bureaucracies.  (Filling in forms makes you realise all over again that bureaucracies don’t give a fuck about you.  It’s their way or not at all.)  Watching my cousins deliver the eulogy I was reminded all over again that what is truly important in life is not what we spend most of our time doing.

After the long and emotional day of the funeral, the wake and visiting my own parents last resting place, I had a few days of very precious down time. I went up to Kings Park to see the wildflower festival, and to catch up on my diary and reflect on my direction.  I took my nephew birthday present shopping and visited a dear friend, and sooner than I knew it, I was back on the plane and heading ‘home’.

Perth still feels like home, I still dream about it regularly. After all, I did spend the majority of my life there.  My family is there.  Siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.  And when the place was absolutely awash with flowers, not just in Kings Park but everywhere, it was hard not to think that maybe I should go home.  My friend punctured that one.  ‘Don’t be stupid’, she said.  ‘In six weeks time, it will be forty degrees’.  She’s right.  On my last trip home it was forty degrees in November.  Who knows what I’d do for a job?  Who knows where I could afford to live?  Who knows if I could stand the summer any longer?

When I got the call to come home, I had just returned from booking a trip to Tasmania, where I had intended to go and settle. I had a shortlist of properties.  I had ideas of businesses.

Now, I am just profoundly confused on everything except one point. I don’t want to stay in Canberra any longer.

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Ancestry and adoption

Adoption, Belonging, emotions, Genealogy

I’ve had another moment of bibliographic grace.  You know.  When the right book arrives at the right time.  This time the book was called It didn’t start with you.  Even the title gave me a little taste of unwinding.  The author is Mark Wolynn and is readily available by which ever book buying method you prefer.  (I’m a paper girl).

i read it from cover to cover on Monday night, and it prompted a fresh surge of genealogical activity.  It’s been a while since I visited the biological family tree and with the speed at which material is being digitised, I hoped I might find photographs.  I’ve never seen any photographs of any of my ancestors beyond one picture of my maternal grandmother.

I found one.  Not who I was hoping for, but nevertheless a 100% improvement on where I was.  My great uncle was a pretty handsome guy actually, and his pre-embarkation photo made me weep for what lay ahead of him.  A fit and attractive young man who would be discharged from the army with neurasthenia, a difficult condition to describe.  It’s modern day equivalent in former soldiers is PTSD, but as I understand it, it’s not quite the same.

Perhaps worse was to come.  James was a twin, and in a few years time, his sister, my great grandmother, would take her own life.  I discovered that Gertrude had killed herself only after her daughter, the only person who could have told me anything about her mother, had died.  That’s how adoption works you know.  So many secrets, and such destructive silence. My great grandmother’s death in 1923 is still reverberating four generations down the line.

I hope that by trying to reconstruct this branch of my biological family, to tell Gertrude’s silenced story, I can bring some peace and healing, not only for myself but hopefully for them too.

Roses for home

Belonging, Clare Cooper Marcus, Home, Roses

A few posts ago I talked about the loss of a much cherished dream, which I am still finding it very difficult to adjust to. As if by magic, a book returned to my life yesterday. I lent Clare Cooper Marcus’ House as a mirror of self: Exploring the deeper meaning of home and never got it back. This week I found a replacement copy, and each evening I have been getting cosy with it. Last night I read the chapter on location, which reminded me afresh of my attempt to find a home in a different city.

In the chapter she talks about how few people in her research were able to be OK with where they were. Most of us, it would seem, have a deep, semi conscious idea of home that is in play all the time. Its primarily affected by the place or places, homes or houses in which we spent our childhood years but we can also be influenced by a myriad of other things. I certainly have a strong image of the place I would like to call home. My Tasmanian venture was as close to it as I have come, which is why its failure felt so devastating. Lots of friends knew that was why I had gone, but very few have appreciated the depth of the sorrow that my failure to accomplish it has brought me.

Normally I would turn to a rose garden for solace, but here in Canberra in June, that’s not possible. Heritage Roses Australia posted a photo this week of a beautiful array of roses from WA, my birth state. Could be a reason to move back there, although I don’t know how I would cope with the summers anymore.

A search of Help Me Find produces a number of roses with home in the title, many of which seem to be associated with decorator magazines. One that isn’t which draws me in is called Ideal Home, or Idylle. It’s a pink blend hybrid tea bred by Joseph Laperriere in 1959. There’s also the intriguingly named Home of Time, which also goes by the name Adagio. Anne Cocker was the breeder and it was released in 1998. Its bronzey reddy tones are very bold, and might sit well next to Afternoon Delight out the front. The last rose that strikes me (there’s a play on names about to come) is Home and Family. However this rose was released in Australia under the name Atomic Blonde. Atomic, with all its imagery of exploding mushroom clouds and devastation, doesn’t strike me as a name that will produce sales. Home and Family on the other hand, well, isn’t that what we all long for? A home where we are really at home, and a family where we truly feel like family?

I live in hope…