Writer Renewal

Return to work of Elizabeth Hayes

Coming Home by
Elizabeth Hayes

A part of me is glad to be back home but my heart longs to return to Port Fairy. Itís the wildness I miss. The engulfing waves, the towering pines, the leaves strewn across the cottage pathway like confetti. Iíd like to say that the house felt familiar when I returned but everything seemed ordinary, old and dusty.

I needed to re-nest: clean, dust, rearrange. Remove clutter. Iím one of those people who need to settle back in. It takes time for me to arrive home long after Iíve turned the key in the front door lock.

I think I may have left tiny threads of myself along the roadside leading home. Iím like a spool of cotton, still gathering and spinning thread onto the spool once Iím home.

As I vacuum over Australian wildflower Redbrook carpet (my mother used to set this pattern working nightshift when I was a child ) the colours in the flowers seem to radiate. Sunlight streams through the windows and a playful spring breeze makes the curtains billow like lacy sails.

The neighbours press up against me here with their dogs and noises and loud voices. Toward nightfall the neighbourhood hushes. It's the buzzing quiet of Melbourne, a different quiet to Port Fairy where the sounds of waves steps forward inviting the silence to dance.

Beyond this house there are more houses and beyond those, more still. Houses are anchored to interlocking streets, a maze of residences stretching into the outer suburbs. Itís wonderful to be inside tonight, behind doors closed. Outside, the city teeming with activity lacks space. Thatís what Port Fairy has lots of Ė space. Sitting here in the lounge I feel congested. The houses lining my street are homes to many people and only walls and plaster and bricks and mortar mark the dozen or so feet between us.

In Melbourne everything jostles for attention Ė voices, barking dogs, speeding cars, television, telephones, advertising, red lights and green lights. The mad fluffy of an anthill where we occasionally bump into one another.

Steadily, I rewind the cotton some more. Itís not easy. The newspapers and TV startle me. I donít want to know about the world. Not yet. There was no intermission between home and Port Fairy. The journey home in the car was surreal. Moving from one location to another is not a place in itself: itís traveling. What I needed was a cosy rest stop that prepared me for the shock.

Everything was so obvious when I returned home: dust, clutter, sluggish thought patterns, ill-fitting opinions and city limits. My cupboards clamored for a clean out and the broad horizon of Port Fairy faded further from my mind than the most distant star in the midnight sky.

Coiled up on the couch with my cat, slowly I reacquainted myself with the city in which I live. Suddenly Melbourne glowed like a dot on a map. Spaces multiplied . In the scheme of things cities are tiny and maybe they get lonely too sometimes. But Iím thankful for the limitless sky sheltering both cities and small towns. With its army of citizens tenderly bedding down for the night, Melbourne feels smaller now, smaller than Port Fairy, smaller than a grain of sand. Melbourne has quivering edges and spaces between.

With the cotton rewound, my spool of all-purpose thread is ready for use. Itís time to stitch back all those missing buttons from my wardrobe.