We are between houses at the moment. We have sold our happy home of ten years and cannot move into our new smaller apartment for a couple of months. So we are renting a tiny short-stay unit and have stored almost all our possessions. 

It’s allowed me to differentiate between the sense of ‘place’ in my mind/heart, and the sense of ‘home’. All three of my living spaces, old, new and in-between are in the same geographical area and at a pinch I could walk between them all. So my sense of place is not disturbed. In fact, I am enjoying long walks around the immediate area of our short-stay unit, so my sense of place is if anything being enriched by this examination of a part of my suburb I generally drive through or bypass altogether.

My sense of ‘home’ is another story. For the first time in my life I am unable to even picture my home, as it is being built and I can’t visit until next month. It’s quite discombobulating, as a good friend put it. Actually, it is causing me some distress and I am quite unsettled – literally, when you think of it. I am even dreaming of increasingly weird new homes that I am forced to live in (the house that had a ramp in the living room that lead straight to a child care centre in a Westfield shopping centre was a doozy…).

I am realising that although I love travelling and often do it for a month or more at a time, I have always had a concept of ‘home’ in my head while I’m away. A bit like TS Eliot’s ‘still point in a turning world’, a place to go from and return to… yes, partly it is where my friends and family are, but I see now that partly it is also a place, a physical sanctuary. It’s fascinating to see something about yourself that might never have been revealed in this way except for a particular combination of circumstances.

My sense of home will return in a few short weeks, but thanks to this experience I will always retain a deep appreciation for refugees and immigrants who live through months or years of this feeling, often under utterly traumatic circumstances.

It’s also an interesting thing to think about as we age, and something I always raise with people who do my Second Act workshops and programs. What does ‘place’ mean to you? What does ‘home’ mean? And how will these change as you age? For me, I am reflecting on how I can create ‘home’ wherever I am and whatever my circumstances. Today it is a bunch of jonquils and Bach trio sonatas. Nice…

Joanna Maxwell


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