I’ve been back in Duncan nearly a week, sorting mail, plucking weeds, resuming routines, trying to remember the whereabouts of keys and files, catching up with friends and neighbours. And, of course, riding my motorcycle. It makes me feel especially welcome home that summer held fire until this moment, wearing sackcloth and ashes right up to the day we got back and then pulling out all its regalia, its full pageantry.
In my first blog from Wales, I compared it to Narnia – an impression that deepened the longer we stayed. There were times, at dusk, I swear I saw a talking bear bound through the glade or a Centaur stride across the field. Coming home, then, was like stepping back through the wardrobe: picking up where we left off after living a lifetime elsewhere. The most common remark I’ve heard: “Oh, you’re back already. That went fast.”
I get that. We all notice presence more than absence – the person who’s there, not the person who’s missing – and so I never expected anyone to wake up daily and ache for my return. And the remark is an unsolicited tribute to the team who carried the load at the church while I was away: they made my absence irrelevant. I think that’s brilliant. I applaud them and thank them.
But the strangeness for me is that the time away shaped me profoundly, and I neither have the right words, nor does anyone have sufficient time, to explain it. The closest I can come is either the Narnia analogy, or to compare it with a movie I saw years ago, Castaway. In that, a man ends up absent from his life, not four months, but four years, alone on a desert island. When he finally returns to the world he left, it’s hurtled on without him and yet remained virtually the same. But not him. For him, everything stopped, and everything changed.
I’m being melodramatic, but that’s a bit of a taste of what I’m feeling. In Wales, my days unfolded with exquisite slowness, filled with gentle serendipities, hidden treasures, small epiphanies. I started breathing differently. I listened better. I played more. I laughed harder.
And now the real test: Can I be and can I do all these things here?