In Sinning Across Spain, I made the bold claim that “home” was my favourite word in the English language. It must be special to me, because it’s the word I choose to see dozens of times every day…

IMG_1139When I walk in the front door, it greets me – just in case I’d been feeling lost or displaced. I’ve felt both of those in recent times.

But HOME rescues me. The word and the place.

I’ve been pondering what it is that makes home feel like…well, home. How to pin down that feeling – an exhalation in every pore, that lets the body soften and the mind slow and the spirit lighten – when I know I’ve come home.

It starts before I enter the house. It’s the sound of the bell on the front gate, that particular note I’ve been hearing for almost three decades. The bell is rusty now, but the note is true. Then there is that familiar curving brick path; only short, but somehow more welcoming to me than a straight line. It slows me down. Asks me to focus on it, even though it’s so deeply known. I brush my hand against the rosemary hedge – rosemary for remembrance.

I do remember. How could I forget?

Sometimes there are jonquils and magnolia blossoms. Sometimes scented Mr Lincoln roses. But always, always, the rosemary is there for me to drift my fingers across, and to release the scent of memory. Of those I love and have lost…of those who are far away…of near and dear…

Then the pleasure of the key that fits. It never ceases to amaze me, that little piece of metal carved into a particular shape that slots into one particular space, allowing me to come home. All the technology in the world will never replace for me that simple miracle of ingenuity. Access all areas, Ailsa, it says. Welcome home.


History. Memory. Warmth. Intimacy.

Decades of laughter and music and food and friends and the little dog that used to pitter-pat toward me down the shiny hall; smells and flowers and guitar chords; rehearsals for shows and half-written manuscripts; jokes, good and bad; birthdays and anniversaries and mourning and carousing; late nights and early mornings; sickness and health; cups of tea and pots of tea and vats of tea and gallons of tea; rose petals between sheets; bad jokes and silly walks and funny dancing and crazy hats; being held when grieving; popping corks when succeeding; reading and sharing the reading and stealing a book and giving a book; lolling in the tub as a fat moon wafts overhead; greedy bees drinking at the bottlebrush blooms; winning the possum wars; late night silences and early morning nuzzles; comfort when comfort can’t help but somehow in the end it does; more tea; making Anzac biscuits at Christmas and eating plum pudding in July; watching friends take over the kitchen and marvelling at the results; listening to a lone cello’s notes hitting the high ceiling; stuffing home-grown vine leaves from our backyard and eating them with wide grins; and poems…poems read for birthday parties when people said they felt shy yet couldn’t be silenced….poems sung to old tunes and new…poems written for the occasion, the ultimate gift…poems in every nook and cranny, perched on every piece of furniture, sitting on every chair and making way as humans approach, tucked under bedcovers and at the bottom of the garden…

Home is a poem. It is one long poem. And it’s a love poem. It will always sing of history and mystery and the wonder of connection. These rooms are a poem composed over three decades of love and laughter, of joy and grief, of stillness and mayhem. The poem of this home is deep in my bones. I will sing it all my days.

And I am grateful.

For home.


16 thoughts on “Homing in…

  1. Such wonderful reading on home like mine though my red is Fragrant Cloud and Camp David. I am so glad to be reading your writing again, Take Care and Good Luck Ailsa Piper.

  2. To take the everyday and fill it with poetic resonances as you have done with your reflection on HOME is the mark of sensitivity and a caring heart. My wife and I have just been away for a month – a lovely time albeit with some grief -in NYC – she fell (on the Highline, of all places) and last week with our return discovered her discomfort was from three cracked ribs! I became ill – a kind of me-too-ism! After a week in Waikiki (first time ever to Hawai’i) how good it was to be HOME. The familiar – the warm – everything in its place and everything known! My illness though forced me two days later into hospital for five/six days. I am just HOME. I think everyone who has ever spent time in hospital knows where they would rather be! Though I must say that all the teams: nursing; surgical, other consulting – were first-rate (even the food in part, too) doing their best to make me and my fellow patients feel at HOME! But that’s impossible, of course – even as I award full-marks for best effort!

    Thanks for your writing! As always!

    1. Oh Jim, my commiserations to both of you. Hope that all is rapidly hunky-dory again very soon. Thanks for coming here to visit me at HOME! As always, your doings are lively and inspiring. New york…haven’t been for so long. Since before the Highline existed. Have to get me there sometime. Take good care and may you both recover fully. Ailsa x

  3. Hi Ailsa
    I was looking at my blog and doing some maintenance there and reread the review of SAS. It made me think of you and your expressiveness about home in SAS. Made me smile.

    This post made me smile again today so thank you. I hope you are alright, you know inside where it counts. Your post provoked me to think about things and poems. I wrote a speech for my wife to read at our son’s wedding. I wanted to include a poem and I looked and looked. Eventually I found one by Leonard Cohen which I signalled in the speech. The room tensed a bit at the thought of a Cohen Poem at a wedding, that is until Leanne read it out to them. Relationships that a consummated by weddings come with expectations about forever and persistence and durability and love. Of course humans are not all that durable and I sense some acknowledgement and pain at the memory of those who no longer share your home with you within your post. So I hope you have people close to you, viscerally close I mean because it is so easy to live in the abstract world of memory and longing. I hope those posting on FB are near.
    Cohen is a dangerous poet, as as write this to you I wander at the wisdom… but then I think that we are all adults and we know what is right.

    This is a nice poem for the beginning and something to reflect on later.

    Cohen Wrote
    The Sweetest Little Song
    You go your way
    I’ll go your way too

    For me this a reminder to continue the path of going “your way”, even when the partner is no longer there to travel with you. Be well Ailsa. You have written a lovely contemplation on home . But it seems sad also.

    1. Thank you for such a thoughtful and generous response Harry. The poem is lovely. Sad? Maybe a little. But it’s hard to be sad in the presence of gratitude and I feel so very much of that for my home. And all those who have breathed life into it and us.
      Hope you are brilliantly well. Ailsa x

  4. Ailsa, I attended a creative writing workshop you held in Sydney a while ago after reading your wonderful book. You helped me greatly when I explained how selfish I felt being at the workshop when my husband who has cancer, was having a scan alone. I was shocked and very saddened to read about your loss and I wondered what was worse, me knowing and having time or being in your situation… I decided that they are both as bad as each other. Well, my husband is now at the end of the road and on Friday was given a choice of where he would like to be, home or the hospice. We chose home. He wants to be with myself and our three children. This post has reminded me Ailsa, that no matter what I go through in the next week or so, and for much longer thereafter, home is where our memories are and where I’ll hopefully find peace and be rescued. I’m so happy to be reading your writing again Ailsa, you are such an inspiration xx

    1. Dear Suzanne,
      I can’t believe you took the time to write. Thank you. I remember you so well – how torn you felt, and how uncertain. Yet you stayed and you prevailed. You will prevail through this next time, and through the following days and weeks. If I can make a suggestion…let people help. When they offer, allow help. You may be good at this already, given how much time you have had with his illness. But if you are not, let people help. They want to, and you will be helping them. It has been a hard lesson for me, and I want you to learn it easily.
      You are brave and strong, even when you don’t feel it. And whatever we go through, we have loved and been loved and that is the miracle. The cost is high. But we have been loved, and you have children who will love you and be loved by you. Doubly, now.
      You shine in my memory, and I hope our paths will cross again. I send love and support and strength and comfort. You can get through this. Take one small step at a time. Just one.
      With love,
      Ailsa xxx

  5. Hi Ailsa
    How wonderful to read your poem of home. It reminded me of my own home in another place and time. Do you remember having me and Jef Riner for dinner one night long ago? I especially remember the studio and the warmth of rugs and guitars in it.
    I read your blog and so wanted to reach out to you after your loss. Your writing has a palpable essence of sensitivity and humanity which makes for ravenous reading. You are a remarkable writer.
    I haven’t read Sinning across Spain. Did you walk the Camino? It’s on my list of things to do.
    Must go for now – but wanted to stop by and tell you that I feel for you and your loss.
    I hope the world gradually opens up to show you its splendour and warmth and love in the darkest of times.

    1. Thanks so much Lexey.
      Yes I do remember that night. Glad you do too. So lovely.
      Yes, I did walk the camino. In fact several camino roads! And yes, that is what the book is about. I’m always amazed when anyone comes to this blog without reading the book – I assume that is the path people take to get here. If you want to know more about the walk, you can click on the ABOUT section. I think that tells you the premise.
      Meantime, thanks for stopping by, and for your incredibly kind wishes and thoughts – and the comments on the writing. Means a lot, particularly now.

  6. My last apartment had one of those winding paths which always, always led me to slow my pace; in my thoughts and in my walk. As I made the slight turn I could feel myself wind down a touch and for a moment I would enjoy the gorgeous roses that lined the path. Thank you for the reminder and may you always have home sweet home. x

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