March 1, 2012

House into Home

My sister brought my childhood teddy bear over to me last week.  "Sunshine Bear" enjoys the view from his new digs in Dunedin.

For most of my 20’s, everything I owned fit in my car.  When I moved to Alaska, without my car, all my possessions fit in my backpack.  My first year in New Zealand, I lived in my boyfriend’s (now husband’s) old work van for several months while I worked on fruit orchards.  I had a long and sincere conversation with a fellow van-dwelling orchard-worker about how living in a van is good for your soul.  It’s freedom itself. Whether a backpack or a van, living as a self-contained little unit keeps you mobile and unencumbered.  

For years and years I lugged around a small, tattered, plastic folder with some of my favorite photos – snapshots of friends and family as well as artistic, decorative shots.  I also carried a small ball of twine and some clothes pins.  I’d stretch the twine out, pinning it to a bare wall, and then hang photos from it like you hang socks from a clothing line.  It looked great and when it was time to move, the pictures went back in the folder and the ball of twine was wound up again.  At the next place of residence, it took just 5 minutes to hang it all up again.  In this way, 'home' really was quite portable for a while; I created it by hanging a few photos on the wall.   

During these years of nomadic living, however, I daydreamed about someday having framed photographs hanging on the wall of a possibly-more-permanent dwelling. These days, though I will always have another 'home' too, I am trying to create something more permanent here in NZ – to Settle In. My sister was just here for a short visit and she brought two 50-pound suitcases with most of my family treasures that have been patiently waiting in my mom’s closet. Now I have my dad’s old baseball glove, my teddy bear and blankie, my baby book, my grandfather’s camera, my great-grandmother’s Christmas ornaments and more.  It’s so special and significant to have these things here that I almost can’t talk about it!!
And – I also have photos, in frames, on the walls of a home that my husband and I recently bought together.  It has character, great energy and an AMAZING view.  We count our blessings with this place daily.  When my friends Nick and Kelly from Alaska were here, they helped us move into our new house.  Kelly walked right in, picked up a framed photo, and hung it on the wall, proclaiming, “There. It’s your home now.”  I have left that photo right where she put it.

A framed photo of a friend and myself about to jump in a cold, Yukon lake.

I’m keeping the twine, clothes pins and a folder of photos ready should the North American horizon or some other location call us back into another adventure…  But in little steady ways, this house is also turning into a home.
More FRAMED photos. My dad's baseball glove and more.


  1. I absolutely LOVED this. I had no idea you were so nomadic! I knew that you had moved around a bit, but didn't realize that your belongings were quite so portable :-) Isn't amazing how things like old baseball gloves and teddy bears can hold so much meaning in them? It sounds like you're definitely settling in, piece by piece, one framed photo at a time.

  2. Molly, I love that you and James have a sanctuary for yourselves. Thank you for posting this. And In response to your previous post, "yes, I think it is a sign that everything will be alright". It's about staying calm in the chaos and you are so good at that. Thinking of you dear friend....Theresa

  3. Have been reading your blogs since past few hours...hoping you will end up going back to settle in another place-so that it gives me a reassurance that it will happen to me too someday soon..Have been here for 3 years now but still feel unsettled. Am living in much smaller town than Dunedin. Besides Dunedin is most multicultural in South Island (or maybe after Chch).
    But its still sooooo sweet to read about your buying a new wonderful beautiful home and finally feeling settled...hope either we move out or we finally decide to buy our own house and stop hoping to move out