Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Going Home.

The spring buds fattened slowly forth into summer fruits, the summer fruits gorged on the sun and the rain and ripened into swollen bunches of sugar and promise and then the village came forth to stoop and pick and gather. All that was grown and fostered, nurtured and tended came to fruition and it was time to bring the harvest to bear, to say this is what we have made and this is what it will become. 

As with the grapes so with our plans. Our ideas for what was to be, our thoughts on what had passed. Our desires and dreams and hopes and wishes. Those that had not come to fruition were let go sadly and with many tears.

We had been flirting with a dream but as the rains fell and the sun beat down it was becoming clearer every day that our dreams, the ones we had been focusing on – they weren't ripening. Perhaps they were planted in the wrong place, perhaps the conditions weren't right or the timing wasn't ideal, maybe the weather hadn't been quite optimal but as the season drew on it became clearer, storm by storm, day by day that although we had wished and hoped and dreamed of a long term life in France, the reality was that it wasn't quite working for us. 

Although the plan had always been that we would just come here for a few months while we figured out the next step, we had harbored secret dreams of staying forever, I mean why wouldn't you? It's beautiful, it's perfect. Except. Except that it's not home and it turns out that we long for home - somewhere where the ground is receptive to roots being placed. Here, although we have tried, our roots have pushed up against rock and boulder, have been baked and burned in the heat, half drowned in the rains, struggled to get by in the climate that is very hospitable to only one thing, one crop that has evolved over thousands of years to thrive here. A crop that isn't ours. 

The realisation that however hard we wished for it this wouldn't be our home and that what we really longed for home was painful, it hurt. We have loved it here. Over the last two months the tiny roots that had managed to push through the ancient rock and slate, that had begun to cling slowly but dearly to the landscape were eased away, pulled from habit and familiarity, from hope and recognition and although they were wrapped in the damp cotton of loving and careful relocation they cried, aching for the place that they had so desperately tried to make home. My heart, it aches. 

I didn't want to leave. I wanted to stay, until I didn't. I wanted France to be my home, French to be my language, these to be my people. This place where people care about the things that I care about, about family and food and celebration and the small but sacred routines of every day life. This place. it speaks to my soul in so many ways but not in the ways in which my soul can speak back. How different it would be if we were French.


Sometime over the endless two months that was W&P's school holidays there came a point that felt like The Time, the point where we had to decide to either commit to investing a serious amount of time in France and finding our own home, or to leave. And so we decided to leave, to try that thing that we have talked of and batted back and forth for the last ten years. That thing that has always been our maybe and our some day and our what if and our but I don't think I could. The life that has sung a siren song to us and yet always scared the sweet crap right out of us. 

In a few weeks we are moving to the Western Isles of Scotland. To the island that my grandmother comes from, that we spent every childhood holiday on, that I moved to with my mum when I was twelve – a move that the only upside of which I could think being that if we lived there we would have to go somewhere else on holiday. And yet, within a few weeks I was as happy there as I've been anywhere. My feelings about the place are mixed. It's home, home of my heart, home of my dreams. It's the colour of my soul and the picture that creeps across my canvas. It's my answer to the inevitable 'where are you from?'.  It's also the place of my most anxious recurring  nightmares, the claustrophobia of a life I've already lived, a life that I remember as both the best of times and the worst of times. Home, in other words. 

There are a million things that draw me back and a good half dozen that repel me. In the interests of my family and our future and the possibility that it might just be the thing that soothes my soul, I've agreed to move back, to try it one more time, thirteen years after I last lived there.

Nye and the girls are delighted. There is talk of dogs and chickens and beaches and lambs. Cows and horses and goats and open fires. Newly built houses and machines that convert methane into heated swimming pools. Of friendships and conversation and being able to share a common language with people again. Of proximity to family and to the dearest of friends. Of remoteness, of the wilds, of living a life on the edge of all the things that most people hold dear. Of home. And for that I hold the greatest hope. Home. God, how I've missed it.