‘Home’ as a verb: the stained-glass whole

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Home, as the cliché would have it, is where the heart is. But this doesn’t mean much to me because my heart is in a lot of different places. I live in Cambodia where I love my job, my family and oldest friends are in Australia, my boyfriend is in Belgium. I’m always thinking about the next place I want to go. My feet get itchy the moment they hit home ground.

At some points, this has been a source of worry for me. I’ve wondered if I’ll ever be comfortable calling one particular, bounded place ‘home’.

But lately I’ve been thinking about home in a different way. Rather than being a place, I see it as an action. Home, in my opinion, should be a verb (i.e. right now, I’m ‘homing’ in Cambodia). Ok, so maybe that sounds a bit ridiculous, but I really think that ‘home’ is something that you do everyday by relating to a place and creating links to people. And because it is an action, it is constantly changing. I don’t sleep or eat the same way I did as a six-year-old, and I don’t ‘home’ in the same way either.

I came across this TED Talk by Pico Iyer recently. Iyer is an exquisite writer (read his stuff here) of Indian descent who was educated in Britain, lives in the US and spends as much time as he can in Japan. His ideas about home are informed by this personal tapestry of influences. The video resonated with me hugely because he talks about exactly this concept: that home is not a place at all.

He discusses the growing number of people who do not live in the country in which they were born. This ‘great floating tribe’, he says, numbers about 220 million and represents the fifth largest nation on earth.


Such people spend their lives ‘taking pieces of many different places and putting them together into a stained-glass whole. Home, for them, is really a work in progress. It’s like a project to which they’re constantly adding upgrades and improvements and corrections.’


I love this image of a beautiful, light-filled stained-glass globe, made up of many pieces of different shapes and sizes, with sections missing, being replaced and changing colour as we move around and sees the ball from different perspectives. And we also see the world through the lens of the globe; our own personal kaleidoscope. As well as being a gorgeous visual, the metaphor encapsulates the fact that ‘homing’ is an action, a craft, a life-long project.


kaleid 2


Some people, of course, move around the world out of necessity instead of wanderlust. For the world’s 18 million refugees and 38 million displaced people the metaphor must take on quite a different meaning. The idea of a fragmented sense of home may not always be exciting or beautiful. This is worth remembering.

My own stained-glass globe is still in its infancy. I hope to add many more colours and shapes to it in the years to come. People around me, friends and family, sometimes describe this desire as a kind of strength or bravery. If that is true, I don’t believe that this quality necessarily comes from me. I think the strength lies in the very first piece of the puzzle: the upbringing I was lucky to have, the warm, consistent presence of good people around me both during my childhood and later on. This first coloured piece had to be strong enough to act as a foundation, to support the other haphazard pieces I have cobbled together with it.

So this song is an ode to the very first, shining piece of glass that I set into my stained-glass globe. The video was shot in a rice field in Battambang, Cambodia. Special thanks to Tim Hall, Caroline Guillet and Jeremy Mathes.

The Homing Pigeon Paradox

Oh, golden light atop the trees

It’s you I take with me

It’s you I hold to be free

Oh, golden light atop the trees


The homing pigeon knows the way

It bristles to be let loose

Shakes its grey wings across the sky

Comes home to roost


My mother built her nest up strong

A shelter safe and dry

It’s for the knowing that it’s there

I can wander wide

I can wander far and wide


Oh, golden light atop the trees

It’s you I take with me

It’s you I hold to be free

Oh, golden light atop the trees

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