I’m now seven months into my study of belonging here in Australia, my fourth country. This month I’ll be focussing on Reaching Out.

I’m trying to see the world differently, looking for openness,  behaving in a more inclusive and friendly manner, and making a real attempt to appreciate the tiny details of life. Like Love Clutter, which I wrote about last week: I’m looking at the seemingly insignificant details of my life differently. Because after all, a full life is made up of tiny details. Call this belonging mindfulness, if you will.
So at the same time that I’m feeling a fullness of love and connecting, I’m also shadowed by an emptiness inside that I haven’t experienced for years. How can this be? Something about my last trip to Canada has unhinged me. I ask myself: Has all this introspection made me more displaced or has the importance of finding like-minded people surmounted geography?
Or have I been reminded of the country of my youth and set afloat in a world I’d forgotten? I miss laughing with friends and family, I miss the smell of snow and the crunching of crisp dried leaves under my feet in the forests of Fall. And yet at the same time I miss the way the sunlight taps through the mist onto the rolling greens and golds of Hampshire and I miss being Parisienne and the full-hearted and heated philosophical discussions that accompany any and every French meal.
And then something magical happened.

At a reading on Sunday night I met UK author Geoff Dyer, who’s lived in Paris, New York, San Francisco and now Los Angeles. During the interview, he’s relaxed and appears to be more sliding than sitting in the lounge chair, long legs outstretched. I can’t help staring at the rolled up hems of his jeans and wondering whether its back in style again or just a style Dyer never parted with.

Belonging for Dyer is about people, more than place. When I ask him about whether he has as strong sense of belonging he’s surprised that he hasn’t thought about it more.”I’ve always loved a sense of belonging. I’ve loved being in groups and…. I think that comes from not having any brothers and sisters,” he says, adding that he enjoys being part of the global community of writers.

How refreshing! Many people I’ve talked to have said they don’t feel they belong or they don’t need to belong but here’s someone who just loves the idea of belonging and being part of a group. I get the sense he’s saying something that many of us aren’t or won’t.

After chatting with Dyer, I start talking with another couple who were at the reading. They’re a retired English couple who arrived in Australia via Fiji. They suggested we go to dinner. Over sauvignon blanc and salmon my husband and I learned about Pat and Charlie.  We laughed and shared insights from Geoff Dyer and we exchanged migration stories. I haven’t had an experience like that in years. For an hour or two I had a sense of connection, a taste of belonging.So I came home happy and yet still had a sadness in my heart. I can’t explain why.

Then Francesca from London emailed me. She had been looking for flotsam along the banks of the Thames. I can picture her, even though I’ve never met her, walking along the rocks, head down. I think she would move in a considered way. Maybe her camera is around her neck. In her email Francesca is wondering whether I collected flotsam and if so, would I like to do a UK-Australia flotsam exchange. How beautiful. I love the idea of sharing found treasures.

And I think to myself: this is what I’m collecting. Where once there were extended families and tight communities, now there are only fragments. But there are still treasures out there to collect and share. Magical treasures that happen spontaneously if I’m open to them.

So here I am, gathering the flotsam of belonging.