Saying goodbye to home

The first time I really had to say goodbye to anywhere I’d called home was when I was 22 years old.

It was January of 1993. Although I’d been away at university for three years, I hadn’t actually moved out of my parents’ home. The emotion I felt, spending my first night all alone in a strange room, cold and bare, in a house with people I’d barely met, shocked me.

Of course, that was all just part of growing up, of finally becoming an adult: a necessary rite of passage. As we make our way through the last day of 2012, though, I find myself having to say goodbye to home in a way I’d never expected.

This is the home my partner and I created for ourselves as it was in July 2011. It was finally finished, after 11 years of work. All plumbing and wiring complete, every window and door draft-free, the last lick of paint applied. Less than a year later, all that was left were the stone walls. An incorrectly fitted flue. Pyrolysis. Fire. 12 years and seven days after we moved into the house, the roof burned up before our eyes.

My relationship with the place has changed dramatically over the nine months since the fire — which I’m sure I’ll write about more, at some length, in the future — but it’s not until now, at the end of 2012, that I realise I have to say goodbye to the place as it was, as I remember it, and accept the place as it is.

I have to say goodbye to here, where every builder who visited us in our first few months laughed to see the state of things.

Here, where our dogs met their first baby hedgehog, with much yipping and snuffling and canine confusion.

Here, where I did battle with a giant dogwood and won, allowing light and air to a stunted oak.

Here, where I lay in the blazing sun, naked, lost in the lap of Life.

Here, where I experienced for the first time the proper awe and terror in the face of a blizzard.

Here, where I lost my fear of the dark in an evening of dog-walking: dark moon and deep cloud and no torch.

Here, where I dug a grave with my partner, to bury our first, beloved dog; here, where we planted an apple tree, and harvested its fruit, and made his life part of our bodies.

Here, where we stood and gaped at the Northern Lights: beams of bright white across the horizon; sheets of red and green; a luminous yellow phoenix flying above the house.

So many more memories make that here, which is no longer here; this place, which no longer exists. Here has become there; this place has become that place.

Because places are not simply built of soil and vegetation, animals and humans, in present time; places are built of memories. When we look upon a place, we see not only what it is now, but what it has been to us in the past , and what it might be to us in the future. The sudden destruction of our home has disrupted my relationship with those memories, those future possibilities. My heart and gut are left with threads of connection dangling.

I am at a turning point: standing with Janus at this turn of the calendar, I must say goodbye to all that this place, this home, has been to me, and reweave those threads into myself, separate the memories in myself from the memories in the land, and allow this place to be what it is now.

But places are also built of all the lives that have lived in them, stretching back into the distant, ancient past. Our lives are part of this past, are part of this land, are part of this place, forever. By saying goodbye I am not turning away, but making space, cleaning the way within myself to the new possibilities of what this place may be to me — now, and in the future — and of what new life may emerge from what is.

About Elinor Prędota

Elinor Predota was born in London in 1970, and was raised in England’s second city. Her hippy parents took her on endless, wonderful visits to birdwatching hides, Iron Age hill forts, Medieval Castles and ancient stone circles across Britain, which kindled her longing for green hills. She finally moved to the country in the year 2000, where the land has taught her more magic than any book or human being ever could. She is a priestess, a poet, a scholar, an accidental comedian, and lives in southern Scotland with her partner, a very big dog, and a vast range of more-than-human neighbours. She can also be found online at elinorpredota.com.

  • http://myownashram.com Niki Whiting

    Oh Elinor. I am so sorry for your loss. Again. This made my heart heavy. But yes: who knows what will fill the space created?

    • http://www.anewadventureeveryday.com/ Elinor Predota

      Niki, thank you so much. It really is okay; I just hadn’t really felt it until yesterday, you know? Today I’m breathing and peaceful and enjoying the place (physical and spiritual) I’m in right now.

  • Jane Siveyer

    Letting go is hard, especially to something you have put your life into, but it will help you move on. Accepting the ‘now’ is an excellent mind set to be in but you can still cherish the time you had at your house. Can you claim for the incorrectly fitted flue?

    • http://www.anewadventureeveryday.com/ Elinor Predota

      *nods*

      Oh, we had insurance up the wazoo, so from that point of view we are very, very safe. In a way, that’s why I hadn’t actually realised or felt the loss until yesterday – I’ve been riding on gratitude for neighbours’ generosity and the relief of the insurance. Today, I’m at a place of peace.

  • Jeannine

    So beautifully poignant. As the reader, I get to experience the beautiful memories without the sense of loss. Your writing drew me in. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to lie naked in the sunshine, walk in total darkness, watch the mysteries of the seasons, build a house, and have a home with a partner and dogs.

    • http://www.anewadventureeveryday.com/ Elinor Predota

      Jeannine, thank you so much for your comment. As a writer, it’s one of the best compliments I could receive.

  • pagansister

    After all that loving and hard work you both did for your home, to have it go literally up in smoke is heartbreaking. As usual you expressed your feelings with precision and beauty. Though I haven’t lost a home to a disaster/fire, I have had to leave several through the years due to my husband’s job, as an employee of a huge construction management firm. Leaving the memories of the 7 previous homes was not easy. As you mentioned, a home is not just a building, but incorporates the history before and after the building becomes your “home”, a history that you continue as you live within the confines of the homes walls, as well as the land surrounding it. The hardest was the home we left when we moved to our current and last home a year ago, as we’re retired now. We lived the longest in our last home—18 years—and the memories are strong—some happy ones and some sad ones. The different things we did to the house to improve it, update etc. help make memories. The memories of your place will always remain with you as you and your partner pick up the pieces and start a new. I’m glad you mentioned above that you are now in a place of peace.


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