Here, in a few beautiful sentences, Australian writer Lisa Southgate unknots the messy shoelaces of belonging and home.

Perhaps the feeling of home is as unattainable as a feeling of real belonging especially when so many of us are part of what Pico Iyer calls the global tribe, living outside our country of birth. And as we move around the world with seeming physical ease, the emotional and psychological burden become more pressing. Questions like who are weand how do we make meaning out of this mobility? sit with clarity among our 4am thoughts. We understand we can’t belong as others might. Yet we can still embrace the blowing leaves of belonging that flutter past when we least expect them.

And we can learn from others like Southgate who lives in her home town and still finds belonging elusive, illustrating that as humans we aren’t so different after all. That some desire for belonging is part of our human condition. That place isn’t everything.

Southgate, who feels out of step with her generation, finds a thin sleeve of belonging on her living room floor, at home, when she reluctantly opens her front door to a stray dog.



”Gretel” painting by Lisa Southgate

”I think I always had a problem with feeling I belonged and don’t think I even felt I belonged except for an unexpected moment ten or eleven years ago after a stray dog adopted me.”It was Sunday afternoon evening and I was lying on the thin old carpet in our lounge room watching `sci fi’ with my son Matthew and the dog, a Stafffordshire terrier, lay down on the floor next to me, back to back.”

”I could feel the weight of this dog along my spine and felt an immeasurable comfort that I hadn’t felt since I was a little child. I felt that I was surrounded by people and things that I was supposed to be surrounded by and I finally felt that I was in the right place. I think that is my one big moment of belonging. For a moment I felt like I belonged.

”After that, going for walks with Gretel gave me various levels of that feeling. It might have evoked being a child and being safe or it might have been the unconditional acceptance that a dog brings to that relationship.

”I haven’t had that feeling since Gretel died. What was amazing is that she was this breed of dog I considered dangerous and would never have owned.  I didn’t even want a dog — but she chose me.”

Feature photo of Lisa Southgate by Roz Bannan Photography.
(Queensland State Library, September 2014)