Home is a funny concept for me right now.

Rick and I just moved out of the little Queenslander we called home for almost two years.  It was stressful to move out and into a spare room in our friend’s apartment, but we knew it would allow us to live a more liberated existence in our last days in Australia.  I have to admit that it’s hard to say goodbye to a place like that, where we lived together for the first time and decided to share our lives together.  It housed us in a transformative period and will always be the spot where we laughed at our free pink couches while snuggling together for warmth in the cold Australian mornings, or where we bought our first surfboards, our first joint insurance policies, and our first washing machine.  For me, it will always be associated with the immense growth I experienced as I truly let go of my past relationship and let Rick in, and for him it was the place where he decided to try a different path in life.  Of course, it will also always be the home where the 4 am sunrises woke us up and the bird’s relentless squawk was a soundtrack to our lives; where the spiders were the size of your hand and the possum invasions seemed constantly imminent.  It was an adventure, and we’ll definitely miss our little home.

But, now home is an evolving thing.  I say this as I sit on my parent’s couch in their great room, listening to Lake Michigan and the breeze through the trees.  The summer lushness, the smells of dirt and lake, and the fecundity of the ravines that surround me are home and probably always will be.  I missed these things down there, where the eucalypts dominate the nasal palate and the soil smells of foreignness.

Last night, my aunts threw a couple’s shower for Rick and me.  His parents flew in and all the faces and spirits that shaped my childhood showed up for a cocktail, a hug, and a chance to express their good wishes.  I can’t imagine feeling more loved than after a night like that.   I barely saw Rick – hell I barely even ate – all I did was soak in the exuberance of a gorgeous Midwestern summer’s evening, a bonfire, and the love of a community that has been there with me from before I could remember.  And when I’d catch his eye across the crowd, up to his neck in my relatives and family friends, I’d see the man that I will be spending the rest of my life with, looking strong, confident, engaged, and sexy as he recalled the names and histories of my convoluted family and charmed them as he has charmed me since the beginning.  I am so proud to be with him and excited for our future.

Being immersed in the community that made my home as I grew up, and sharing it with the man who will be my home going forward, I can’t help but think a lot about what home is to me.  For years I felt a bit unmoored, and it wasn’t until finding Rick and a sense of grounding that I realized it.  As we look forward to where we’ll go after we move home, I recognize, as I have slowly learned over the last two years, that home is your community plus your environment.  I’ve lived in some beautiful places and I’ve lived among friends, but without both there will always be something missing. Rick and I are weighing our options – whether to be city dwellers or do what we both are inclined to do and move off into the country somewhere.  Surrounded, as I was last night, I recall that people make a huge difference and that wherever we end up, we better have some people around us who we love.

The jetlag is gaining a hold on my brain and the flow of my words is beginning to gel up.  I better get to sleep.  Goodnight friends.  We can’t wait to make our home amongst you.

Free, untrammeled womanhood

“I think [the bicycle] has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world,” feminist pioneer Susan B. Anthony said in 1896. “It gives a woman a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. The moment she takes her seat she knows she can’t get into harm unless she gets off her bicycle, and away she goes, the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”

Susan B. Anthony knows a thing or two.

I have a new set of wheels.  I fought the idea of getting it for many months because we are trying to embrace a more minimalistic existence and adding a second bike to my clutter didn’t strike me as a move towards reduction.

But my job recently put me to work in an office park that is a soul-crushing 50-minute walk from the CBD. And though the ‘burbs of Brisbane are nothing like the suburbs of American cities, I still felt isolated by the limitations of foot travel and the banality of my suburban daytime existence.  I missed the convenience of being downtown – walking to work with R, going to yoga at lunch, zumba classes, shopping, and having whatever else I wanted at my fingertips.  The only answer to this dilemma was a new bike that could get me quickly and comfortably to all the things I needed: a cruiser.

So, last weekend we went on an expedition to find that perfect cruiser.  I had something in mind, but I didn’t expect to find it.  I wanted a vintage step-through frame, re-built with new parts – new brakes, wheels, cables, and shifters.  I wanted aesthetic beauty and elegance, mixed with a healthy dose of classic bike goodness (lugged steel frame!) and nostalgia.  I wanted my bike to take me back in time.  I wanted my bike to be this:

And I found it on the first trip.  It was unsurprisingly in the West End, a part of town with great farmer’s markets, ethnic restaurants, trendy bike shops, and all the brunch places one could need.  We came across a little shack with about 40 re-vamped bikes out front and I immediately knew I would need to go no further. I tried two bikes out, but I really knew the whole time that I wanted the yellow cruiser, with white-walled tires and aluminium (yes, that’s al-you-min-ee-um!) splashguards.  When they told me it came with a basket, I almost died.

You can see why.

It’s adorable, indeed.  But the most incredible part of my bike is the sense of freedom it gives me.  Never before did the Susan B. Anthony quote above mean so much to me. I hadn’t realized how much my walking habit was restricting my exploration of the city.  But when it takes more than 40 minutes to walk somewhere, that somewhere suddenly becomes less of a desirable place to go.

With a bike I can see and do so much more in Brisbane than I previously could.  I can bike to work, and then run errands after work all over town (without being that person dressed in all her cycling paraphernalia tapping loudly through the supermarket and attempting not to slip and fall).  I can head to a restaurant for dinner, check out a shop, and grab drinks with friends in less than half the time it would have taken me to do while walking. What’s even better, is that this bike is so stylin’ and comfortable that I can ride to work in dresses and heels, coast into elevator, and walk to my office. No changing clothes and fussing with shoes.

It’s nice to have such a functional and easy bike.

I have to add, that this bike has been a pick-me-up for me lately. I have been feeling the distance pretty strongly recently.  I am happy with my lifestyle here, but I miss so many people from home and sometimes I have to admit that it gets lonely being on the other side of the world from all of the people I care about.  Now that R and I have booked our trips home for the summer, the anticipation seems to be building more quickly than before and I find myself having phantom sensations of things at home – like the scent of a pine forest, the feel of the comfy couch in my parent’s house, or the squeezability of my sisters.

Sometimes with distance you’re forced to steel yourself from thinking about such things in order to function. Thus, once you let even the tiniest thought through, it threatens the whole of the dike with its force.  That’s where I am now, plugging the hole and hoping the time passes quickly!  I’m thankful for R, and for the wonderful life we are creating here.  I am thankful for the myriad opportunities that have come my way.  I’m thankful for the yellow bicycle that gives me free rein of the city.  I’m thankful that in just a few days I’ll be seeing Atmosphere – in Australia!  I’m thankful that next week will mark two years with R, a true measure of personal growth and a happy milestone.  There are more wonderful things here than I could possibly enumerate, but it all still feels a little empty without friends and family to share it with.

Come visit?