I have reclaimed my house after an Easter visit from the Teen. They are, obviously, a delight to have around, the apple of my eye, the spring in my step and the beat of my maternal heart, and I relish every moment of their being home, especially as the gaps between them being home grow wider as they grow older.
However, as I stretch out on my sofa and my feet do not come into contact with ring binders and uncapped pens, I cast my eye over the room that does not contain pairs of giant trainers strewn about the floor in ideal tripping locations, knowing that the dishes are done, the food in the fridge will be there in the morning and the washing pile is at a normal height, not epic mountain proportions. This is also, in its own quiet way, satisfactory.
Work continues with its busyness and my social life goes through phases of quiet weeks and busy weeks. This is one of the latter, full of exhibition launches, talks on Tudor demon minds, haircuts, cinema, trip to Oxford and a German guest coming to stay at the weekend.
I also managed to fit in a trip up a hill from my Teen’s childhood, to the bluebell woods of old. I strode up the yellow brick road (in reality, a mix of gravel and flint but lets not put reality in the way of a story, shall we?) on a day when the wind either boosted me up the path or pushed me back down like a petulant child demanding that I LOOK AT IT! Except you can’t look at the wind, you can only see its effects. So I did. I paused by a handy gate to lean and watch the crops and grasses ripple, the trees shiver and bend, and the crows launch themselves, laughing, into the chaotic, cloud-chaser sky.
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve visited this wood, parking at the village, slipping through the churchyard, along the path by the lake, up beyond the farm with its occasional visiting Silver Stream trailer, and carry on on on to the almost-top of the yellow brick road. Once I saw a red kite hovering casually above me. Once me and the Teen walked up here at night to watch the Perseid meteor shower. Back in the beginning, it was 4 of us: father, mother, child and dog: mismatched paces, calls and whistles, grumbles and laughs.
Then it became the three of us: mother, child and dog. The walk is quieter, more time is spent noticing things like fungi on tree trunks, fossils and flints, examining the latter to see if there are any with worked edges, but we have always found walking an ideal time for talking. Long, slow, serious conversations as they navigate the perils and pitfalls of being a human being in this complicated world.
Then it became two: the dog and me. His fluffy pantaloons and matching tail marking the way ahead as he raced on to sniff out small mammals that might prove chasing and I walked more slowly to appreciate the scenery, occasionally coming out of my daydream to call him back.
This year, it was me setting my own pace and relishing in the freedom of it. The sense of space around me and lack of traffic noise. The wind, tweaking and harassing the branches of the trees, providing a background rush to the sound of birds singing. The sun shone, appearing bashfully from behind quickly scudding clouds, making the various shades of green glimmer on the hillside. There are two cyclists, clad in the kind of garish colour scheme normally only seen on wasps, pedalling and discussing their weight lifting sessions at the gym in loud voices: luckily they are the only people around and are soon gone, shooting up the path with a focus that seems almost rude on this lazy Sunday morning.
I carry on at my own pace, turn to the right, past the pine plantation where we used to gather pine cones for Christmas decorations and where deer could be seen moving silently between the trees, ghostly figures in shifting dust motes. Or at least we could and we did until an electric fence was set into the ground.
Walk under the giant silver birch trees that shiver and whisper their heads together, way above mine, their trunks a spectral, peeling silver. Across the stream via the two thick wooden planks that wobble just enough to give a minor thrill, the tiniest rush of “wooaa!” adrenaline and then across. Pause to watch the tree tops dance, listen to the birds sing notice of your arrival, breathe in the damp smell of mud, bluebells and a sharp top note of the last of the wild garlic.
The bluebells are still holding, still blue, still striking, still gathered and glorious. And being right there, at that moment, all on my own, with nothing but the natural surroundings, I am smiling with my whole self at the sheer bloody joy of being right there.