The car winds around the hill, and there, in a gap in the trees, is the sea.
We’re home. Coming up the orange clay drive the wooden shack, settled gently into surrounding scrub, welcomes us.
Opening the car door the sound of the sea wraps around us. The scent of coast flowers and brine. Finding the key, we run through the house, the kids re-exploring just like I did at their age, noting all the changes since the last time we were down, rearranging the house. “Everything’s changed,” my Poppet laments forlornly – a few shifts, and it’s all back to what it should be.
Opening windows, pulling back curtains, we pause to unpack the car and scull down a cup of tea, then hurry outside, cross the clay road, and then down the winding path through the tea-tree grove – to the curve of sand and the sea.
We’re home, we’re home.
I don’t think I realised just how stressed, how tense I still am from the fires and the weeks of acrid smoke that kept us housebound or away, the worry that my little one was the wrong way up and I’d have to deal with a long recovery we have no time for, until it all slides from me.
I can almost feel it easing from my shoulders.
I walk straighter, breath deeper.
Gulping down the sea air, watching our little ones play in the shallows, the gentle light and wide sky, the ever-changing sea. The sand under foot, the shock of the cold water.
Wet, sandy and exultant, although still tired from a day of travel, we return to the house.
Little one, you can be born here. Little one, this is a good place.
This is a place full of memory, of family, of belonging. Of beauty and happiness.
This is the place my heart calls home.
Although I’ve been away for years at a time, this is the place I’m always dreaming of, the place I always return to.
There have been a couple of other places around the world that I’ve stepped onto and thought ‘yes, this is… familiar’, this satisfies something inside me.
A headland on an island off the coast of Scotland, above a small, restored black house village, leaping from rock to rock, the low-lying vegetation, the silvered sea wild around.
A small, deeply green, island in the Marovo lagoon, in the Solomon Islands that had such a strong sense of ‘other’. Of magic. We trekked through the tangled green interior, sometimes ankle deep in water in search of the illusive crocodiles that lived there. Calf deep in sea, we fed the nurse sharks that swam around our feet amongst the mangroves.
I don’t believe in re-incarnation, so there’s no sense that I’d been in either place before – but these places satisfied something inside me and filled me with exultation.
I wake in the night to the sound of the surf on the shore, the curtains wafting in the breeze coming through the open window.
All is as it should be.
A place of weddings and christenings, of long midnight conversations around the open fire, midnight swims and steaming baths full of sand. A place to return to when work overseas has torn ideas of self and world apart. My mum went into labour with my brother here, after a body-surf on a hot January day. My bathers are packed. As are my hospital bags.
(Little one, feel free to come any time.)
I don’t ever want to leave.
Is there a place (or places?) your heart calls home?