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Archive for September, 2012

Who?

My little car has been chugging around the Marches this week, ferrying my family and me and all of our luggage through the various places I have called home over the past year.  Introducing your family to friends and foreign places is always a bit fraught.  Worlds suddenly collide – personas emerge and are unmasked, habits and habitats revealed.  But when you have lived in several places and met many people, the act of condensing them into a one-week tour can prove dizzying.  Who am I?  Who have I been?  I drive towards Old Chapel Farm, recalling the nights that I slept in my little cell in the glass house, thinking of the last conversation I had with Gareth about a variety of yellow cherry he had discovered in someone’s back garden and was attempting to propagate.  I think of a summer day spent bathing in the creek at the bottom of the valley with Crystal and Bjorn.  I think of the last day there before I left, when Tess the cow was lying in the barn, breathing heavily, waiting for he calf to be born.  But all these memories, vivid as they are, feel slightly stilted and grey, already receding.

I am someone else now.  I am living in Ross, working on a cider farm.  I spend my evenings in the cellar with Mike and all the regulars, talking nonsense and laughing.  I listen to Toby’s blues band practice at the Blues hut down in orchard.  I go to yoga with Mell.  My flatmate Hetti makes me tea as we chat about our days.  This is my new habitus, my day-to-day.  But I had another habitus in Old Chapel, and yet another at the Stables in Bishops Castle.  As I step out of the car, and walk down the drive to Old Chapel, the grey film lifts.  The glass house is still there, by the barn. I knock on the door of the farmhouse, and a person I don’t know answers – a new volunteer, and he puts the kettle on to boil while I walk out to the gardens to show my mum where I have spent time weeding and digging in previous summers.  There are different vegetables in the plots this year.  Everything is rearranged.  But I ease into this place again – I find my footing on the steps up to the garden.  I find my seat around the table for dinner.  It seems clear and right in the flow of conversation around the big table

And in Bishops Castle, as I walk down the dark street towards the church, the bells start ringing, clanging unevenly as the bell ringers ring them up to begin practice.  I am afraid I will have lost my skill.  I walk back through the door.  Everyone turns and smiles at me and says hello, with the smiles of friends who are glad to to see you, who are glad you have returned.  I have not held the ropes for at least two months, maybe three.  But John calls me up, and I take the rope for the third bell.  I pull the bell by myself while the rest wait, just to get the feel for it again, the weight and the momentum, the slight tension of finding the balance at the top of its swing.  It comes right back, and soon I am ringing in rounds, and then picking up the changes for kings and queens.  I can feel the pulling in my arms, and the warmth of the exertion glowing in my chest.

And when I finally arrive back in Ross, driving up to Broome farm, it now seems a little distant, a little grey, faded under the clarity of my re-animated lives elsewhere. Until I am back listening to Toby’s blues band at the pub, the familiar cadences of the set settling me back into this place.

Who are all these Marias?  And where do they live?  And who do they love?  I think this is the hardest question sometimes, if you take the measure of your life by the smiles of friends and the crack of conversation and the moments of immediacy.  The problem is letting them go, feeling these moments slip away even as you embrace new ones, and new people.  Holding on never works.  You simply cannot hold on – time doesn’t let you.  You can only remember, and use your memory as tinder to fuel the next burning moment shared, the next time you meet, the next time you smile together.

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