The Joy of Starting Again
As seems to happen with migrating birds and folk entering their ‘middle-ages’, I find I have been drawn by some invisible and strangely compelling force, back to the place where I started. Some inner-wisdom I didn’t even know I had, seems to have joined forces with Fate or luck or whatever you want to call it, and after two decades of life on other continents, I find myself back in the valley where I grew up.
Home, whatever shape and form that takes for you, is an extraordinary place. It might be a person, a landscape, certain flavours or sounds, or a specific building. Wherever you find it, home represents something that doesn’t change too much – we want it to be a constant that we can reliably return to while we are being shaped and altered by time and life. Even the most gradual and imperceptible transformations of the self become clear whenever we return home.
I was excited and wary about moving home to the countryside. I’ve been interested in farming and food production for years, but having lived in cities since 2000, that interest has been largely academic. Moving out of the city was a chance to learn, as well as get a bit of peace and some good outdoors time.
But I also felt that moving home was going backwards. I worried it would be an erasure of the self I had built and become. Thankfully, I was wrong about that part. It turns out you don’t necessarily revert to being your childhood self when you go home.
But what did happen was quite a surprise.
Although the social life and landscape was familiar to me, I realised I felt awkward - more like an observer than a participant - and that the person I’d become was no longer of this place. This actually made me panic a little bit, as though a key anchor to my identity had come adrift.
One of the things I’d wanted to do was write about the experience of living in the countryside, to share with folk what country life was ‘really like’. But the unnerving truth was that I didn’t actually know. So for a time, I decided to set aside the distraction of social media – that relentless cacophony of advice, brags, facts, stats and rants by someone else about somewhere else – in order to pay attention to what was in front of me, and just be here for a while.
In these few months of relative ‘peace and quiet’*, I think I’ve heard and understood more than I have in years. Not that I think I’ve figured it all out. If anything, I have more questions than answers. But there is a delicious thrill in realising how complex, valuable and extraordinary this place I’m lucky enough to call ‘home’ is.
*although in truth, the Rule Valley isn’t that quiet. As well as the constant din of wildlife and busy farms, there’s a very active social scene.