We were looking for our dream home.
Our family had a fairly simple wish-list.
It included a wide street for road hockey, timber floorboards perhaps, large windows and maybe a fireplace. Lists were drawn up by all members of the family. A new house (daughters wish) was ruled out as we didn’t think we had time to build from scratch and it appeared there was a distinct lack of land for sale in the areas we wished to live. Sufficient space was important.
But it didn’t take long before the phrase “dream home” stopped resonating. For us it sounded shallow and overly consumeristic. Dream homes imply BIG homes – that you’ve thrown every penny you have at them. And much of the conversation we were having ended with “for re-sale”. So then it sounded like what we were possibly going to live in was OUR interpretation of SOMEONE ELSE’S dream, which doesn’t make sense.
Australians now have the world’s largest houses. Our dwellings are on average 243 square metres in size (our is a wee bit bigger at 252m sq). That’s 10% larger than our US counterparts ! Winning this global race is nothing to be proud of – it has forced our young people out of ever even entering the housing market. Surveying their expectations about home ownership shows a rapid downward slide since the 1980’s.
As our house meterage increases, we are also adding pools and outdoor rooms and a number of more complex gadgets. Our ceilings are stretching upwards, and our furniture outwards. Between 1984 and 2003, our house size jumped by an incredible 40%.
In addition to that – we are only living in our dream homes for an average of 9 years !
Pretty brief dream.
So we stopped talking about a dream home. It’s not what we want. Out of interest, I thought I’d take a look at what other people thought “dream home” meant.
Here’s a classic North American style “dream home” image from the internet. There were hundreds of them to choose from. Note the great height, massive walls, balconies, porches, manicured lawns, spa & pool. Am guessing a family house, up to 5 people living here?
As a long-time environmentalist these images gave me the horrors. How to re-word what we were looking for ?
I tried “sustainable dream home”……..
Here’s a totally different kind of image. This is what you get when you add “sustainable” to the front of “dream home”.
The first thing these houses have in common is surroundings. The photos are all of houses situated in lovely places. The “sustainable dream home” images are largely of gardens and windows. They are lower to ground, much, much smaller and frankly, you can’t see anywhere nearly the same amount of house.
I thought about the notion of place and of dwellings and around this time went to an Aboriginal women’s night. I was super inspired at how when each woman introduced themselves they said “I am so & so, my father is from such & such tribe which is located in this place, my mother is from this tribe whose country spans this area.”
It made me think about the term Australian Aborigines use. The term “dreaming”. For them this phrase means the interplay between the daily world they inhabit, AND the other world of spirituality, morality & nature. Their dreaming is a guide book for their lives. There is no soporific state, no hazy, uninformed quality to their dreaming. It seemed to me I could draw parallels between our dream home and the qualities of indigenous beliefs.
I decided then that we should say this is our “dreaming” house.
Indigenous people see themselves as part of nature, and likewise the ecosystems around them having human qualities. Their stories, art and culture are interwoven with this link. Stories are told about ancient times where reptiles show empathy, or plants can lash out in anger. This deep spiritual connection to land goes beyond our understanding of “dreaming”.
With this context firmly tucked into our back pocket we looked further at houses for sale – looked more into the outskirts and the bush fringes of Adelaide. For me it seems that part of our disconnect with our external ecosystems & the way we treat the planet is a direct result of being too comfortable in our homes, cut off from light and weather, sounds and creatures. To be connected with the outdoors invites reflection, surprise, air quality, food sources, natural aromas and the constant change of clouds and movement. Aboriginal dreaming stories are all about this.
The next few blogs will trace the process as we search for our dreaming dwelling – that also happens to be our home.
And we’ll be there more than 9 years for sure.