Way back when I was a regular blogger I took up various ‘one a day’ challenges and found the discipline of coming up with a daily post both fun and useful. This month I am busy with a ton of writing assignments, so I thought it might be cool to participate in the WordPress Photography 101 course as, in theory, it might be faster to let those photos speak a thousand words on my behalf. The challenge today is to capture the idea of “Home” in an image.
Of course, the minute I started thinking about this theme I realized the answer wasn’t going to be quite as simple as photographing my front door. I currently call Vancouver Island my home, but for many, many years as I was growing up my family was constantly on the move. At some point when I was in my early 20s Dad and I sat down to try to count up all the addresses where I had lived and we came up with 53. Our homes ranged from a tiny cabin in Banff where a grizzly sow and her cubs went through our garbage every morning to an apartment above a Chinese restaurant in Ontario (by then I had left home and was working as a dog catcher). From England to Australia, Fort McMurray to Vancouver, Fort Lauderdale to Guelph my homes ranged from simple to fancy, in great neighbourhoods and not so great neighbourhoods, on islands, in cities, or in the countryside.
Though the view outside our front door changed on a regular basis (as an artist and a photographer, Dad and Mom were pretty free to live wherever they fancied), some things remained constant. One was our family (we were a remarkably stable lot, considering our wandering ways) and another was our dedication to schlepping boxes of books all over the world.
Whenever we moved into a new place I would feel somewhat ungrounded until I started to unpack my books. I still have one of the very first books I was ever given, the Daily Mail’s Pictorial Animal Book.
The idea of home and what it is and what it isn’t has long fascinated me and sooner or later, themes like this eventually find their way into my writing. Not long ago my daughter and I wrote a book called Take Shelter about the many different kinds of dwellings people live in all over the world. In the introduction I talk about my books and the way that unpacking them always made me feel at home.
Ironically, some of my favourite books are those with travel themes because even though a good chunk of my life was somewhat unsettled, I have always loved to be on the move. A well-packed suitcase is a kind of home away from home, the essentials of life neatly organized in a way my life in my actual home rarely is.
These days my suitcase is usually a little lighter than in the past. I no longer have to pack half a dozen books just to be sure I have something on hand to suit my reading mood – the miracle of the modern e-reader means I can travel with a veritable library. But I always pack a paperback of some sort anyway – batteries die, devices get dropped overboard, electronic devices get stolen. Books, in all their clunky, heavy, awkward, prone-to-sogginess-when-read-in-the-bathiness are solid between the fingers. Maybe that’s why I’m so fond of them.
If this post seems a little, um… illogical – that’s perhaps because these two sides of my life and personality are fundamentally incompatible. On the one hand I love, love, love my books – putting them on shelves, reorganizing them, adding to the collection, culling the collection – stacking, dipping, flipping, browsing, reading, delving, devouring those books which are also some of my longtime companions… On the other hand, there are few things I like more than turning my back on my bookshelves, and checking that my passport, my plane ticket, and my comfortable shoes are packed in my bag. And that paperback, of course. Can’t leave home without that…