I had arrived as a surprise. My daughter met me in the hallway and we hugged and exchanged greetings. A little voice from deep inside the house asked ‘Where is Granny talking from Mummy?’ and we both laughed, as did the little girl once she found me.
I could have been using skype as my road, or the house phone on loudspeaker. Her last thought was that she would round the corner and find me standing there.
But there are many roads we cannot see, such as a span of years or a scene from the past. We can only find a shape to those inside our imaginations, and no two imaginations will find the same route, although the destination is the same.
Driving Miss Daisy the other day, through the wintry island wasteland, I pointed out a wonderful stone formation, obviously man-built as support for the rise of a narrow track, that wound its way down towards the Atlantic shoreline. There was not a drop of mortar holding it together, but only the skill of the dry stone builder.
We considered the time when this track would have carried man and his animals, and nothing weightier than a pony and cart loaded with hay or feed for the hungry animals. We could hear in our imaginations, the slow march of a day long gone by, the lowing of the cattle, the call of a ewe to her lambs, the odd shout or whistle of the shepherd, and the bark of his dogs. For a moment we could count the day in hours, smell the changing seasons, according to the rise and fall of the sun, or the flow and ebb of the moon tides.
But our pictures would have been very different.
Sometimes in the clipping season, or when the ewes are brought in for dosing, the hill road from the little town grinds to a halt. The local shepherdess is gathering her flock and calling for them to follow her, through the open window of her truck. Those of us forming an ever-growing snake are required to dig for patience as we lurch and stall in the wake of a hundred woolly legs. There is no opportunity to overtake, and no possibility of speeding up.
Some of us click our tongues and roll our eyes impatiently. Some of us smile, knowing we have arrived in an afternoon where time is not the issue, and to hurry along would be to risk lambs becoming separated from their mothers. And we can notice, at this slow pace, the first buds on the heather, the marsh harrier overhead, the way the clouds change and reform into new shapes above the gentle roll of the hills. We can catch the soft calls to ‘follow!’ as they float back to us on a breeze.
And we will all arrive at our destination.
In the end