I awaken to different sounds. A barn owl, for instance, and the first bird, or the creak of the central heating pipes warming up and the sound of an oystercatcher down there on the shore. After 3 months of very definitely African sounds of dawn, I am a little discombobulated. All those thousands of miles across the world, way below the Equator, where the moon is upside down and the Seven Sisters are in quite the wrong place, I woke to the pure voice of a Barbet, or a Turaco, a Ha-di-da, a Go-Away bird and, of course, the shrieks and thumps of the monkey troupe as they traversed the roofs of the buildings in search of leftovers.
Ice crackles in the water butt and I sleep under two goose down duvets, instead of one sheet with full aircon blowing away the heat. The bird feeders are ice-fixed shut and it’s not easy filling them in thermal gloves. All material and no fingers. I watch a wee mouse on the drystone wall looking up for any spills of seed. I watch the cloud shadow on the far snow-covered hills, a buzzard on a fence post, keen-eyed and with feathers fluffed. I see the sheep nosing through the icy grasses, puffing warm breaths out to free each blade. I pull on furry boots, even for indoors, to avoid chilblains, my most unfavourite winter gift. The fire is lit, the classical music on and here I am writing this.
I remember the winter months during which I wrote my book. A rug over my knees for the capricious draughts, two big jumpers on, mittens and lots of socks. Back then we had no central heating, no double-glazed windows, big leaky holes all over the place and old worn carpets. How times have changed, as times generally do. Not always for the best, I know that, but even through the dark times, there was always light somewhere.
As the sun rises red and the sky turns from sparkly black to blue, I think on what it means to move from one place to another and what it is to value both at the same time. It doesn’t have to be a physical migration. Sometimes, when I talk with a friend, he or she might dismiss what was, in the light of what is. The past was painful and should be buried and forgotten and I don’t want it back. Or the past was wonderful and it should be buried and forgotten, because I can’t get it back. Both may well be the truth but, somehow, it seems to me that to dismiss what was just because what is has arrived is a mistake. Either this, or that, in other words. Black or white. My question is this…….what about all those greys?
When someone asks me if they should choose this option or that option, I always suggest both. You can laugh at that, as I once did, till I did some serious studying. Instead of either this or that, which immediately throws a person into confusion, consider allowing both. One is emotionally driven, one by logic. A thought is very different to a feeling. Both require attention and simultaneously. If I feel sad that I am not in the place I was in, then this is perfectly okay. I am here now, in my present. But to bury any feelings of sadness is to park them for only a short while. They will rise again. If I want to make a decision about this or that, I must embrace both my emotional connection to the decision and my logical mind. For instance, I cannot just fly back to Africa because I was free there, free of lists and obligations and duties. No, I am here now and this is my home. Actually I don’t want to fly back to Africa because it was what it was. A break from the norm. In order to make inner peace about there and here, I must remember all that sun and freedom in order to bring it into where I am right now.
I never say that I go back. I go forward instead. Forward to home, not back to home. And, so, in going forward, I honour all that I have had, all that I learned, all those memories and pictures, the sounds and the sights. I honour the warmth in my home, the freedom to walk in the wild places, the newness of every dawn. Engaging emotion to logical thought promises a good marriage, and there are wise books on that very subject. We have been gifted both. Although the world leans more towards a logical outlook on life, I would warn against taking any notice of such a singular approach. Too many folk suppress how they feel about what happens to them, and so, they starve. Let feelings be spoken out loud. Let feelings show themselves. A world without passion is just a machine.
Not either. Not or. But both.