Is home where you were born?
In an earlier post CIA wrote eloquently about turangawaewae. We both have complicated senses of identity – we’ve moved around; our fathers were both born overseas; we’re suspicious of the temptation of nationalism.
I moved to New Zealand when I was 21, which means I have spent more of my adult life there than anywhere else. Scotland, where my Dad was born, also feels like an intellectual home – if not a literal one. But I was born in Canberra. It’s not much of a city, but it’s where I’m from.
And I wonder, is home where you were born?
For a long time, Canberra was home. I like the gentle roll of hills in the distance. Age has rounded the hills. Australia is on old country, and its first inhabitants have been there almost as long as any people have been anywhere. The greens are subtle, almost grey in places. It’s a designed city, and it shows. In general, no buildings are allowed on the tops of hills, among other obscure regulations, preserving then sense of a garden city. There are exceptions, of course… Most people will tell you that Canberra is pretty boring. And they might be right. To see it another way though, it’s close to Sydney (in the way that Paris is close to Amsterdam); it has the great National Gallery of Australia; it made me who I am, for what that is worth.
Since August, 2010 I have called Leiden home. It’s flat here, and my mind still struggles with a landscape that is completely unnatural. Rivers have been moved, lakes have been drained, forests cut down, seas filled in. This is great for cycling, of course (though perhaps the lack of hills is a telling factor against Dutch Tour de France riders), but no hills is hard for my mind to accept.
A lightning fast visit (which included this stunning moment) at the beginning of this year has reminded me that I have a new home. Home in a deeper sense than the house you live in. Home with different resonance than the city you were born in. Wellington is the city that I found how to live in. It’s got hills – but young, vigorous hills. From time to time they rattle, and you feel the earth moving underneath you. It has a harbour that could stand for all harbours. It’s a dense city, with a green belt, and 100 days a year of 80 km/h gusts of wind. Someone with a better way with words than I have put it that it’s the world headquarters of the verb. But it’s my home-place. It’s where my new life started – it’s turangawaewae for me (I am respectfully borrowing the concept).
Photos by PJD. The first is a view of Canberra from Mt Ainslie; you can see the War Memorial, ANZAC Parade, and the old and new Parliament Houses, as well as the city. In the two of Wellington, you can see Oriental Bay, on a good day, looking across to the Cake Tin (or “Westpac Stadium” as it’s supposed to be called); In the last, you can see how Wellington can be a place for you to fill up the spaces with your own architecture.