When I was very young I’d lay in bed listening to dogs barking in far off northern suburbs. We lived in a new estate on a hillside above a creek. Across that shallow valley I’d look out to a tree covered ridge that gradually, in the early fifties, filled with brick veneer houses and tiled roofs. Beyond the ridge lay the world.
The dogs in the night seemed so distant and I’d ask my dad where they were and he’d say Heidelberg or Preston or even sometimes Whittlesea. I knew not where such places actually were and had absolutely no conception that they’d all been named for somewhere ten thousand miles away.
Eventually I got to visit those northern suburbs and one day moved from our gentle valley, discovering that the entire metropolis we lived in was actually not that vast. Although cities often seem bigger in the night time.
Eventually too I traveled in my own country, on holidays, or hitchhiking interstate with mates, and then flying to Asia at the same time as my contemporaries caught the last of those ocean liners to Europe.
Sometime in my forties I heard Jonny Lang singing Wander this World and a bit later, Bob Brozman and Jeff Lang with Rolling Through The World and from then on the idea took shape that if one hillside can be “home” for a little boy, and an entire city for a young man, then the whole wide world is where I belong now. And “home” is simply anywhere you feel safe at the time. Given that you often feel safer in familiar surroundings, with people you know.
I could also quote Midnight Oil’s Home from the album Breathe, but the ranter cannot forgive Peter Garret for promising so much but ending up so small. Such a pity, but we do have some sort of responsibility to truth. So here’s a much better quote:
I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved and where all your yesteryears are buried deep, leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can. Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better hour because it is dead. Passed years seem safe ones, vanquished ones, while the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance.
– Beryl Markham – West with the Night