Best 09: What is the best change you made to the place where you live?The view from my cottage, across the vegetable garden to the sea
A year ago this month I moved into my little cottage by the sea. It wasn't quite in 2009, but it was such a powerful change to my living situation that it has to make it into my Best of 2009 blog-down.
Prior to coming here, I'd been on the move for almost a decade. Even before Afghanistan, when I was living in my wee cottage in Wellington, I was traveling between Wellington and Auckland every other week for work and flying over to Timor-Leste ever few months. That last year I also worked in Bangkok, Israel and Palestine.
Once I tried to write out the flights I'd made and the different cities, hotels, houses and beds I had slept in over a six month period. After about forty flights and twenty different beds, I gave up. Suffice to say that for a good ten years of my life I never unpacked my travel case.
When I left Afghanistan to come home to New Zealand I knew that I needed to settle for a while. I needed to balance all that movement and adventure and drama with some earth and stillness. So what did I do?
In my first year out of Afghanistan I moved between five different houses in Wellington, traveled all over New Zealand and to Australia and spent about ten weeks traveling in the United States. On that trip I visited Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Napa, Portland and New York. I barely unpacked my suitcase and ended up with bits of my life scattered all over Wellington.
By the end of the year I was no more grounded than I had been in Afghanistan but for the first time in my life I was starting to get tired of all the travel. I was craving some stillness and some quiet.
I found it. I found this house tucked away into a still, quiet corner of a sleepy little village by the ocean. In a landscape characterised by the movement and energy of the wind I found a home that was completely sheltered from the wind. After a life defined by air, fire and movement, I found myself embedded in earth and surrounded by water. As soon as I arrived at this house I felt my whole being sigh deeply with relief.
I haven't managed to stay still. This year I've been to Bali, to Australia three times and back to California. I've been to Auckland and to Blenheim, taking the train to the top of the North Island and the ferry over the Cook Straight to the South Island. I've traveled and flown more than my Chinese health professional would have advised, whose advice for me week after week is to put my feet into the earth or to lie down flat on the grass, but when my travels are done I now have this solid place to come home to.
That was the best change I made to where I live this year.