Autumn: it’s my favourite season here in southern Tasmania. Cool evenings, foggy mornings, high blue skies, apples and wood smoke; the season of fullness. This year it just might pass us by. Today Hobart took a short-cut straight to winter, with single-digit (celsius) temperatures, icy winds and a liberal dusting of snow on the Mountain.
Winter approaches and I failed to make the most of the summer just past. Injuries to hips and knees kept me away from bushwalking for the best part of January and all of February. Personal trials and tribulations turned my attention and energies inwards while I dealt with some complex situations and emotions, leaving little energy for the garden or photography, with what energy I could muster expended on maintaining the friendships that ground and nourish me and the life-affirming practice of taiko drumming. I missed the harvest of plums and blackberries: there are no jars of sweet preserves stowed away in my pantry this year. I haven’t sown seed for my winter crop of brassicas. I haven’t been present, in tune with the life around me.
I have been thinking, feeling, sketching out the roughest blueprints for building the next phase of my unfurling life. It’s difficult to act when my employment future is so very uncertain, but act I must. Waiting, rootless, disconnected is so evidently unhealthy for me. I am a creature of action and I need to be moving (physically, metaphorically), so moving I am, in the most literal way.
I’m leaving the House of the Gumtrees. I am done here. It is time to create a new home. The sudden onset of winter weather confirms my decision: this house is cold, and with its open plan design, high ceilings and poor insulation it is expensive and horrendously inefficient to heat. I don’t need to shiver my way through another winter wearing a coat and fingerless gloves while I work at the computer. I dream of a smaller place, easy to heat, quick to clean and much more environmentally friendly in design than this too-big building with no winter sun.
I’m looking for a home that’s more sustainable, and not just in the environmental sense. It also needs to be a place that meets my emotional needs and helps me to look after my health. A place that feels safe and welcoming where I can relax and live the way I want to. I can’t do that here:it’s too big, too expensive, too far to walk places and too badly built. There’s no lagging between the walls or between the upstairs living area and the downstairs bedrooms. My housemate works shifts and his comings and goings disrupt my sleep. There’s no auditory privacy in a house where you can hear the other person talk in their sleep.
Beyond issues of incompatible hours and house design we’re not a good match for each other, Housemate and I. We’ve lived together for a year now and are still just as much strangers to each other as we were then. Our values don’t align and so many small incompatibilities have gradually grown into irritations. I’m interested in low-impact living and growing a sense of community; he’s interested in watching TV and playing poker. I cook locally sourced seasonal produce, heady with spice; he eats McDonald’s and Lean Cuisine. On a good day we manage perhaps 15 minutes of conversation. There is no companionship, only someone sharing the space and the bills. It’s not home.
Our lease expires in 7 weeks’ time so the search is on. I’ll most likely end up living in a place of my own, though I’m keeping an open mind about sharing if I find the right place and person, after all the research shows that those living alone are more likely to suffer from depression, plus it’s cheaper and less resource-hungry to live with others, which makes it the more sustainable option (at least with the right place and people). So what are the factors I’m looking for, as a renter, in a sustainable home?
Of course there are many other things I’d like to have in a home, like a gas cook top, solar hot water, a garage, a wood stove and a decent bath, but while I’m renting they are insignificant luxuries. When I’m able to buy my own place, however… I dream of farmhouse kitchens, chook runs, evenings in front of the fire and other blissful things.
For now I’m just looking for a place to call home and mean it. Somewhere I can live more sustainably.
What makes a place “home” for you?