As the plane circles for the final descent over Sydney, I reflect on our month-long trip to Scotland. It’s a trip that always makes me reflective. Mostly I have learned to reflect on the good.
I think about phrases that talk of ‘home’. Home Sweet Home. There’s no place like home. Home is where the heart is. There is something special about coming home isn’t there? So much tied up in the whole notion of ‘home’.
I confess my own feelings about home are complicated. I love going ‘home’. I love reconnecting and renewing the bonds of friends, family and familiarity. There’s a lure, a deep calling on an altogether more innate level – and yet -it’s a trip that always unsettles me for a few weeks afterwards. Like the guilty feeling of being unfaithful (I imagine), gnawing in the dead of night. I constantly ask of myself, where does my heart truly lie? Scotland? Australia?
I left my childhood home when I was quite young – still at school in fact. And then, in my 20s, I left my home in the wider sense. A lot of things happened back there. Some of the happiest moments of my life – the birth of my daughter, my brother and my sister. Times with my best friend. Catching frogs. Immersing myself in the raw natural beauty of my surrounds. The enveloping embrace of Loch Lomond. The awe of Glen Coe as it rises up, looming above, as majestic as the stags that rutt high on the Great Glen.
But there is also rain, howling winds, granite and grey skies that meet the grey waves. There is a harshness. A grit. Painful cold times. Suffocating sad times. The death of my mother for one. But in all honesty, there were many dark times even before that. Some days I wonder – was it that painful, cold darkness that made me make an exile out of myself in the first place? Is that why I feel the push and pull so violently when I return – when I leave?
Does everyone feel this way when they leave ‘home’? Is it the curse of being a citizen of two countries? Or is it, quite simply, the natural order of things? To embark on the Hero’s Journey, hoping to return ‘home’ one day with the magic elixir, the prize – whatever that may be. Something that enables you to see how granite sparkles and glistens when the sun skims its surfaces instead of a cold, grey reality.
It strikes me the notion of home is all about ‘relationships’, bonds and ties – connections. It’s about that network of nerves, neurones, transmitters all sparking into action to create or re-create emotion, feelings and memory. I have those in Scotland. A complex tangle of childhood relationships that never grew into fully formed adult ones. But there is a strange comfort in that. When it’s not a frustration or a resistant force. Sisters, brothers, friends – they still see you as you were. They own that part of you. You are that version in their memory. Just as they remain suspended, imprinted on mine. And yet we are all very different. Life shaped us all in the intervening miles and years.
My sister has married and has a son of her own now. My brother has married and has two boys of his own too. New connections. New memories. So painful to leave behind. That wrench of the last hug. Warm. Clinging. But I fear the ‘darker’ memories of the past would make it just as painful to stay.
And yet, there are painful memories across those new horizons. We carry painful memories inside – on to the next place. At least I was able to lick my wounds in privacy, 10,000 miles from ‘home’. Still, I wonder, even now, did make the right decision? Leaving Scotland when I did? How could I leave such connections, such memories, such hysterical laughter and such deep friendship that could never be rivalled?
I reflect on all of this. As the plane skims the nodding, outstretched fingers of the verdant bush, I anticipate the smell of Eucalypt that will wash over me, cleansing me, lifting me as I emerge from the confines of the cabin. Reborn. I think of seeing my daughter. My dog. My Home. Hearing the cacophony of Bell Birds in deafening harmony. Chit, chatting with King Parrot and his mate. Until those bovver boys – the Cockatoos make a noisy appearance, strutting around, trashing and thrashing like East End bad boys. They’ve got a twinkle in their eye – even when things get rough. The Juvenile Butcher Birds will be wondering where we’ve gone no doubt as they tilt their inquisitive eyes, this way and that. It’s the time of year when the three Kookaburras laugh the evening away in the Ironbark. I picture the stallions Brahma and Baby as they stand, staring and nodding to me from their paddocks, still waiting as patiently on their carrots and feed as the day I left. And of course, there are the frogs sounding their bellowing mating calls into the scented heavy heat.
This is where I’ve come to – to repair. To heal. To become me again. To be grateful for all I have in this life. To unite the polarities within me. To connect. But most of all – to breathe! And to live that good life – the one I used to dream about when it was cold and dark.
The plane is making its final descent. I can see its reflection on the great expanse of water below at Botany Bay. Reflections. I squeeze my husband’s hand in silent thanks and I take a deep breath and swallow to make my ears pop. I think to myself- it’s good to be home.