April is a month of change. A month when grey skies become blue, and bare branches become blossoms. A month of yellow flowers opening in tentative sunlight, the bitter-sweet taste of chocolate and the first fresh, early summertime sunrises of wet grass and bird song. A month of re-birth.
The last time I wrote a diary post, there was snow on the ground. I’ve missed February and March, and I really wish I could tell you where they went, but I honestly don’t know. Two months flew by, flitting on quick wings, and I barely managed to grab at them before they slipped, sandlike, through my fingers.
A lot has changed. I was in London and then I wasn’t, and the reason is no more complicated than that I simply wasn’t very happy.
London and I officially ended it one dark January morning, on a day when rain streaked the windows like tears and the sun never made it through the clouds. I got off the tube and began to shuffle, packed shoulder-to-shoulder with everyone else, from the platform to the escalator that would lift us out of the subterranean gloom; and I realised that no-one was speaking to anyone else. Hundreds of people, all packed together like sardines under the ground, plugged into headphones and not one person made a sound. I looked around at the faces, chalky in the harsh glare of the strip lighting; a silent, shuffling mass of tired-eyed humans, and I wanted to scream.
Everyone says that London is a place you can love and hate simultaneously, and I believe that to be true. So much of London is loveable, but for me, at this particular stop in the road, and however much I wished it was, the things I loved weren’t enough. I couldn’t breathe there, and so we simply left; driving North one wintery day at the trailing end of January in a van packed to the rafters with furniture we had scavenged from Gumtree, other people’s stories woven into it’s fabric.
It’s interesting the way that people interpret change. Often, life is a constant – we anchor ourselves to places and people and build our lives around them, resistant to the tugging of the tide. We are encouraged to make ‘life decisions’ that necessitate permanence – mortgage agreements and career paths and marriage certificates – things which are deemed milestones of success, as indeed they often can be. Stability is valued in our society, above all.
But what of change, and movement; the ability to recognise the cause of discontent and to do something about it? The desire to experience different places, different people? The faculty to admit that you have taken a wrong turn, and the strength to turn around and take steps towards a different path? Transition, rather than being equated with failure as it often is, should be valued as much as the end goals; because it is in transition that lessons are learned that will allow us to define and reach them.
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
So I find myself here, transitioning, in a terraced cottage in the North of England with an outhouse and a stable door to the kitchen. There is light and space and good cooking smells. My books stand in lines along shelves, my maps pasted to the wall. I have wrapped a string of prayer flags that I brought home from Kathmandu around the curtain pole, and I am aware of them as I write, a tattered but enduring line of multi-coloured memories that connects me, here, in this place, to then, there, in the places about which I write.
My desk sits by the window, from which I can see our small garden and the beds in which I will plant flowers and vegetables. Strange, that a transient person would plant things in the earth that put down roots where they stand, but I always leave a piece of myself in every new place I love and then leave.
And leave I shall, because the clouds of ideas and dreams which form and consolidate into plans are gathering, and there will be new adventures on distant shores at the end of the year.
But just for now, I am happy to revel in the stillness, and the silence. I have space to write, and to cook, and to love; and for now that is enough. Just another home, however transitory, in which to create memories.