The Big Issue : Edition 457
22 THEBIGISSUE2–8MAY2014 Another Beginning 22 THEBIGISSUE2–8MAY2014 SOME PEOPLE REMAIN in the same home their whole lives, or possibly move once or twice. Some are born and die in the same hospital; they remain in the local community throughout their lifetimes. My family is different. We recently embarked on our sixth move within two-and-a -half years. At 18 months of age, our youngest child has lived in four homes. There have been good reasons for the multitude of moves. I would choose to repeat (almost) all of them, but there have been consequences: a sense of being at sea, of having no roots, of walking around on quicksand. So there we were, my family of four making a final move to...where, exactly? My partner and I looked at the options. Move back to a capital city? Throw a dart at a map and let fate lead us to our new home? With two small children, the dart option seemed slightly irresponsible. After living on the rural coast of WA for the last two years, following six years in Melbourne, we decided it would be hard to return to inner-city living. We both felt strongly about rejecting the city-fringe suburban dream so it was to be a country town, near the coast back in Victoria. Pre-children, we had holidayed in Gippsland (in the east): I fell in love with the rolling hills; my partner, with the waves along the coast. The decision was made. A rental house was chosen over the internet; a deposit handed over. But we had problems to consider. We knew no one. We didn’t know how long the winter would last or how big the swollen summer crowds would be. We didn’t know the local landscape or geography. I grew up in rough, jarrah-lined countryside in WA; I walked through bush where dad emus jumped up off their eggs and watched as you stalked past. Where streams of kangaroos bounded by. But Gippsland? I have never seen a wombat or koala in the wild. I don’t know the local plants. I don’t know anyone in the supermarket aisles, but that’s okay. We knew what we were getting into. But now we must undertake the strange and slow process of building from scratch what most people have inherited; have had passed down through the generations. A community. A sense of belonging. A connection to the land. The sense of history that only comes with people knowing who your parents are or were. Driving past your old family home or walking through the town you grew up in. Nodding to people you went to school with. Knowing which plants will survive and which won’t. The list is long but that’s all right. The coast, bush and views have all surpassed our expectations and we both know what that sense of community we seek looks like. We have made connections; we know our neighbours. After just six months I smile and nod at the local market. It’s a credit to the community for being warm and welcoming; a credit to us for being slightly reckless in our decision-making. I already know it’s a decision we will not regret. We moved from the short-term rental into the house we bought because it was opposite a bush reserve and on a street with its history visible in the large trees framing it. The trees that shade the house have solid trunks denoting age and wisdom. These trees will be like elders who watch our children grow as they climb their branches. I will remember the poet who occupied the house before us and imagine her pulling phrases and inspiration out of the air. She is my local history. The driftwood cubbies along the beach have already found a place in our hearts. The grounded, down-to-earth people we have met, played sport against, discussed vegie plots with and shared food with are, most importantly, our new friends. As I live in my new home and new landscape I am slowly accepting that this environment is my future. It is the land my children will know. And I’m sure it will take hold of me. I’m excited about learning the smells and seasons of this landscape. I’ve bought my first pair of gumboots, a necessity in this spongy corner of the country. I’ve adjusted to the local roads. Corners are plentiful and tight, and my memory is slowly storing what lies beyond each bend in the road. We have explored ‘our’ bush reserve. I am still waiting to see a koala but have been assured by our neighbours that they spend time in trees at the back of our block. There are still unpacked boxes squirrelled away out of sight and we count ourselves lucky every day. » Erin Johnson gardens, writes and scrounges in op shops with varying success, depending on the weather and quantity of coffee consumed. ERIN JOHNSON AND HER FAMILY MAKE A NEW START, AGAIN, BUT QUICKLY FEEL AT HOME.