It's been almost two years since I've participated in the Magpie Tales community, but this image has been occupying an open window in my browser since it appeared three weeks ago and I've finally allowed it's influence to come to fruition. As always, my deepest gratitude to Tess for her inspiration and her willingness to tempt our Muses.
It seemed presumptuous to label a first-time destination as such, but then she’d never had this feeling before, like she’d been in this place – had stood on this very spot – a lifetime ago.
Several lifetimes, actually. Eight generations, if the genealogical researcher she’d hired was to be believed. He’d come highly recommended, and she’d seen the records herself, had photographed them for her own personal posterity. Besides, Lord knows she paid him enough for his efforts, enough that he was now on a family holiday in Ibiza while she stood at the top of Mam Tor, the bitter October wind slicing its way through her clothes, like it was rending her garments and she was standing there naked, exposed for all the world to see. But she wouldn’t trade places with him, wouldn’t walk away from this for any sunny beach or all the money in the world because this … THIS … was what she’d been searching for all her life.
The valley below was still lush and green, the warmth of the early autumnal sun giving it the strength to fight off the encroaching winter for just one more day. The raw beauty of the landscape and the sheer power of nature’s force displayed in the thunderous clouds above left her breathless and speechless and shivering, both with cold and emotion.
Behind her, she could hear the other hikers talking and laughing as they unpacked lunches and settled in to rest. But she didn’t want food. She wanted to kneel down and sink her fingers into the fragrant, loamy sod along the side of the path, to burrow deep into the dirt and connect on a primal level with the earth. She’d never considered herself a pagan, and had rarely entertained thoughts of ecology or conservation or environmental protection. Yet she had never been more aware, and she imagined, in that moment, that she could feel the earth beneath her feet hum with the vibrancy of a hundred thousand seasons past. Was it a mere flight of fancy that she sensed a collective consciousness, the perceived memories from an untold number of travelers over that ancient stone path which now danced on the edges of her normally cynical mind, toying with her sense of logic and begging her indulgence? The very idea made her heart pound a concussive beat in her ears.
She was overwhelmed.
A thermos cup of steaming tea was pressed into her hand and she instinctively wrapped gloved fingers around it, instantly appreciating its warmth. “Here, drink this. It’ll help.” She’d listened to that deep, melodic baritone all morning as their guide, Andy, had regaled them with local history and folklore. Now he stood beside her, the vapor from his own beverage curling and roiling until his exhaled breath dissipated it, only to have it reappear on the inhale. He took a sip, then nodded toward the vista spread before them. “Impressive, innit?”
She had no words that would adequately convey what she was thinking and feeling, so she settled for a simple nod.
As if cognizant of her emotional state – and perhaps he truly was – his voice gentled to a mere whisper, isolating their conversation from the other hikers and imbuing a reverence to his words. “Y’know, when I was young, I couldn’t get out of this place fast enough. I had big dreams, big plans. I was going to move to the city and tackle the world.” He chuckled to himself. “And for a while, I succeeded. University and a job in London, conferences all over Europe. But later, after the shine had worn off, I realized I needed to come home, to rediscover who I was at a basic level.”
She pursed her lips despite the smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. “And you never left?”
“And I never left,” he confirmed, his answering grin lighting up his face. “Everybody belongs somewhere. For some people, it takes a lifetime to find that place. Others may find it, but don’t have the luxury of making it their home. And some poor sods, they remain forever lost. I’m one of the lucky ones … I’ve always known where my heart called home, I just forgot … no, not forgot. That implies it was out of my control. I refused to acknowledge it for a while.” He hesitated, then said, “I think you’re one of the lucky ones, too.”
She returned her gaze to the landscape, wanting to burn the image into her memory, fully knowing the camera on her iPhone could never, ever do it justice. But more than the image, she desperately wanted to capture the feeling, the rightness of it all, so she could take it with her and then, wherever she went for the rest of her life, she would know exactly where Home was, what it looked like and smelled like and felt like.
As he turned to go back to the others, Andy leaned close, pressing his shoulder to hers. “I know an estate agent in Castleton, if you’re interested.” Then he wandered back to the laughter and his waiting lunch, leaving her staggered by a rush of possibilities.
As the sun broke through the clouds, bathing her in golden light, she closed her eyes and began to mentally compose her letter of resignation.
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