Saying goodbye

My three-month-old Scarpa boots already look three years old. Caked in the mud of fields that grew maize, potatoes, and horse radish, and now catch stars in their puddles.

My lungs have forgotten city air. The soles of my feet are tough, cracked, Hobbity. The rails along the upstairs landing have become the Place of Drying Jeans, because even though I’ve dug out a pair of waterproof trousers, the weather still catches me out.

In a few weeks, I’ll be moving to Bristol. Maybe it’ll feel like London, after this living in the country. Back to cars hissing along rainy tarmac roads, Tesco Expresses, neighbours’ voices through the walls, clouds soaked in sodium streetlight. City parks with proud old trees. Brash, confident seagulls.

I will miss this place. For every step I took, my boots pressing into the land, the land was pressing itself into me.

It’s hard not to rhapsodise about how much it means to have stayed here, this year when the doors of everyone’s lives banged shut and left us all out in the cold. The water, the air, the skies, the fields, the woods—it has been a womb. A solace. Indoors, I edited my novel, then shuffled the jigsaw pieces of it in my head as I walked. And later, when I began to send my manuscript sample to agents and receive only blank rejections back, it was my escape. A stepping away from the smouldering ruin of my dream.

It is a truth that can never be told enough, that the littlest things make life worth living. My time here is a scrapbook of them: a drowsy slowworm on the path, red-furred roe deer bursting out of the trees, jackdaws bouncing up and down in the sky, a fox sprinting across an open field, the briefly blooming chicory flowers, the lovely chatter of the Brent geese returning from Siberia, learning to recognise bird’s-foot trefoil, the Milky Way, the glow of moonlight on clouds before the dawn. I have so much already, so much material wealth and the love of my friends and family, but in my insecurity, I feel I am nothing. Will never be anything.

But this place will always be here.


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