Several weeks ago I found myself in the early hours of a Sunday morning surrounded by boxes in a large empty room, as I finally packed up the remainder of my possessions, preparing to leave the room and house that had been my home for the last 15 years. As I sat gazing at the space around me, memories flooded me of the many moments I had spent in my room: times with friends, lovers, times alone. It felt as if my life over the last 15 years were somehow embedded in the walls around me and the floorboards beneath my feet. I reflected how I would often say “this is my room”, and in the space of a few hours it would no longer be the case. I would be letting it go and somebody else would be starting a new life in this space and they too would have their own memories and experiences.
I am reminded of a Margaret Atwood poem where she explores the theme of things appearing to belong to us. We often say “I own this”, or “this is my house” (car, etc). But maybe we are but caretakers for a short while until the winds of change dissolve once what was, and a new form takes shape – the car, house, room now belongs to someone else who will then announce to the world, as we had before, “this is my room” (or car, house etc). As I write this I am now living in a new flat with my girlfriend, creating a space that for a while I will call home.
The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,
is the same moment when the trees unloose
their soft arms from around you,
the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,
the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can’t breathe.
No, they whisper. You own nothing.
You were a visitor, time after time
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.
We never belonged to you.
You never found us.
It was always the other way round.