Nature Nonfiction

PLACES

This hiatus, this blip or furrow in humanity about which many people have felt inspired to write, has caused the opposite in me. I have written things, but none inspired by The Virus. I have felt wordless about it whilst I have watched sadly from the remote periphery as innumerable families experience tragedy on a daily basis. Throughout the pandemic, I have felt  increasingly blessed that my friends and family are leniently confronted with mere inconveniences in comparison. As Government failures grow and winter looms with the promise of yet more disaster, I feel duty bound to take personal responsibility in reducing the chances of infection. It is a decision which has consequences. I will likely not see my family in the flesh before next year. We are lucky to live in an age where technology allows us to see each other regularly, but something is missing from our regular video calls. I miss the echoes of my mum’s old house as my nieces play upstairs; I miss the long-stretching aureate rays of autumnal sun on our short walks around the reservoir; the memories that each patch of field and stone ignites in me; I long for the cosy silences in a room full of family; the ancient, blood-bonded landscape that fostered me. In short, I pine. It is an emotion which I am most likely unjustified in having. I live in the golden landscape of the Scottish Highlands; a place which this year has grown in popularity with holiday makers who have changed their plans of venturing abroad. In the last few weeks we have been granted a rare gift of stable, bright and warm weather. This summer has made our endurance of the winter wholly worthwhile. We have swum in the warm blue waters and reddened under the fierce sun on the bald summits of hills. The weather has reflected with perfect pathetic fallacy our own personal joy, for in May we discovered that my wife Kirsten is pregnant. Perhaps it is because of this most welcome fact that I am drawn into the deep caverns of my memory and experience. I find that though this landscape in which we now live is wondrous and exciting, there is still an aspect of me missing here. The truth is that there are parts of me scattered over England, like premortal ashes (a thing which the anti nationalist in me finds difficult to admit). I am made up of the places I have inhabited. From the All Saints Church yard in Brixworth to the knee high yellow grasses of Richmond Park; from the muddy gatehouse arch of Badby Woods to the Alpine Meadows of Berkhamsted; from the sun-and-moon-coaxing trilithons of Stone Henge to the quiet corner of a field in Yorkshire where the barn owl hovers above me. These locations aren’t just places I visited once. They became aspects of me, as well as of the many others who were there throughout time and had other just as unique experiences. These memories and places grow in my psyche like mycelia, part of and apart from me. It is only now, when I am barriered from them by our Current Situation that I am mercurially drawn back to them to re-experience myself and my memories, to greet myself like an old friend, shake hands and be at peace.

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