There is a patch of land close to my cottage where I like to go most days. I wander down the quiet lane and hop over the stile, while my dog darts underneath and off into her favourite hedgerow. It’s still warm enough to go in sandals some evenings, slipping them off to feel the long warm grass between my toes. I like to walk up the land towards an old tree that branches out like an umbrella, giving shade to a stump where I can sit and contemplate life whilst waiting for my dog to appear, mucky and drenched in water from her stream and digging activities.
I wonder, ‘how many people can find this much pleasure from a forgotten piece of wild landscape?’
Elderberries hang heavy on branches, their skin shining blood red in the early evening light. Vines entwine themselves around trunks and I shout ‘Hello!’ down a sandy burrow that I assume Mr Badger or Mr Fox have dug. My daughter screams “berries!” at the top of her voice, distracting me. I turn to watch as she runs gleefully towards a hedgerow, her bare legs oblivious to the thistles that scratch, and as I draw closer I too marvel at branches laden with blackberries turning red to black.
There are crab apples, wild apples, blackberries, elderberries, sloes; all left for us it seems, and I know that this Autumn is going to be a festival of free foods being made into crumbles, vodkas, gins, cordials, jellies and jam. My cottage kitchen will come alive with the aromas of earth’s bounty and this thought makes the slipping away of summer somehow right and, for now, I feel tied to this place, this land. As if I must fully indulge myself within it, drink it up heartily, and discover another piece of my puzzle. Memories of a thousand places that I have felt connected to throughout the years flash through my mind and I wonder; is it wrong? Is it wrong to say that for every curious offering my life has placed in front of me, I have sucked it dry before being compelled to move along?
I am in the car talking to my best friend’s daughter. We have just passed the house I lived in as a child, “was that the only other place you have lived Auntie Alice?” she asks innocently. I laugh and then ask her to count on her fingers as I reel off the many places I have called home. 22 to be exact. Some with family, some by chance, a few for love, many for experience, others just for fun, but each one has sewn another memory into my make-up, has become another piece of who I have become; am becoming.
But this place, this place is magical. A forgotten hamlet just moments, and yet miles, from the busy world… where neighbours drop in fresh eggs and runner beans wrapped in newspaper, tied with string. A place where I can walk along lanes, picking up vegetables for free and bouquets of wild flowers to brighten my table.
The clock ticks, the candles flicker, the breeze through the window feels energising and, for now, I think my heart has found a place to rest a while.