Three years ago, I spent a week in Shropshire and finally began to write of things I loved. These were memories of the farm I grew up on. For years, they’d been fidgeting as I sat down to work on my fiction, so that it was hard to ignore them. But up until this point, only fragments had slipped into my stories. I wasn’t sure if it was confidence that stopped these glimpses taking centre stage – the thought that my childhood couldn’t be interesting to anyone but myself – or that I wasn’t sure how to work with autobiographical material. What was clear, however, was how happy it made me to return there once more.
In the years after we left the farm, I dreamt about it most nights. I still do, though not as often, and the dreams have a murky air about them: gone is the childhood belief that if I wish hard enough I will live there once more; often, I find myself as an adult, standing by the house, which has been ravaged by fire, or discovering that the surrounding fields have now become a housing estate.
Writing about the farm, I’m more in control about how I want it to appear. I can walk across the bathroom’s cork tiles, calling to my older brother who can’t be more than nine or ten. The heat of the day is all around me – a layer I can’t penetrate, which has left me slow-moving.
Let’s put our swimsuits on and wobble in the bath, I say as his head appears round the door, knowing that the two of us have made a world for ourselves in this isolated place, never rejecting the other or sneering at suggestions.
The avocado-green tub was tiny, and yet on those blistering days it became all we needed. I recall the sense of swimming breaststroke for miles and miles, cool and free.
Last year, I felt hemmed in, living in Oxford – a cramped terrace, my garden overlooked by the whole street. The farm was where I could escape, but the feeling became like viewing happiness down a telescope. I wanted to reach my fingers out and touch something, but my hand, my Self, belonged to another plane.
That week I spent in Shropshire allowed those two parallel worlds to merge. I was on an Arvon Writing retreat, learning all about how to turn life’s journey into prose. I spent an afternoon, wandering through a pine plantation. The ground was cushioned with a thick layer of needles that had dried all summer and left the air clean; not the synthetic fresh of a disinfected kitchen, but the cleansing fresh of air that’s free of man’s trace – full of the scent of the earth alone. The happiness I’d been unable to touch, which had been a too different perspective to my reality, had appeared outside my window. There was no need for the telescope.
The name for this blog came from my writing group. We were workshopping a short story of mine. My pieces were finally becoming fully autobiographical – writing them, I had a feeling of fascination, a sense of being lucky. There was no panic as I wrote about events of my life, no boastful pride, I was simply travelling through for the pleasure.
After a few moments discussion of the parts of the story that had stayed with the group, the moments they felt were not necessary, or heavy-handed, one of the women reached out her hand. Her fingers moved like minnows in a stream.
There’s a real sense of a journey here, she said.
But it wasn’t just the journey of my eleven year old sense in the story, it was also the journey of the writer, making her way into these memories, investigating, almost testing.
I knew then that I wanted to start a blog. I felt it would be a place of no expectation – not like my short stories where a voice in the back of my mind wonders: will this one be published?
My blog would be a place to simply write about my experience of passing through life, and watching it as I go – not judging, but allowing it to be as it is.
Now, I find myself back in Shropshire, back at that Writers’ Centre. But this is not another retreat – I am here for good, as the Assistant Centre Director.
For a long time I was angry with the child of my past – I blamed her for my grief at no longer having the bravery and lack of restraint that she’d had, running through fields all day long, wobbling in the bath. I had lost faith in her – having wished to be back at the farm for so many years without fulfilment, and even finding the gift of it in my dreams to have shifted.
But now I can smile at my child, and feel content that I am living a life I have dreamt of for a very long time. On my days off, I walk that pine plantation, which takes me up into the hills. I then descend into an enormous basin where a lake lies silver beneath the sky – a jewel amongst cushions of grass, and not a house, not a soul. In this silence my heart feels able to grow, so much space, so much stillness. Words come now, not in an attempt to recreate a life I am mourning, but as a salute to what lies around.
For a link to The Hurst – Arvon’s wonderful writing centre in Shropshire – and details of all the courses click here
I also write for the Arvon blog…click here
Hello stranger! Been missing you around blogland 🙂 A lovely sense of a journey through this post itself, as always, and I see now why that is such a perfect name for your blog. Congratulations on your new role, it sounds perfect for you.
Thanks, Vanessa. Yes, it seemed essential to take an internet break while starting new job and relocating to the other side of the country. I’m practically in Wales now! The cottage is so remote that I have no phone or internet, which will prove interesting for blogging…
I’m so happy for you, Gabriela! Good to hear from you again. 🙂
Thank you, Rebecca! it’s good to be back – and even better to see that not all my followers gave up on me 😉
This post has given me a lot to think about.
And I am happy that you are in such a good place for you!
I’m glad to have made you think, Claudia – thanks for your kind words.
Beautiful and reflective prose as I would expect from you, and warmed by the news that you are in a happy place
Hi Peter – good of you to drop by after my lengthy absence.
Congratulations on your new role, Gabs! I must admit, my face probably lit up a little when I saw a new post hit my inbox. Sounds like you have been/will be busy, but hopefully you’ll come back and hang out with us every once in awhile. 🙂
Hey Phillip – thanks for your comment. I will certainly try and hang out as much as I can. This will be slightly limited by the fact that my house has no mobile or internet signal…which is a good thing in terms of getting my ‘other’ writing done, but challenging when I am trying to keep tabs on my loyal followers!
A double-edged sword, to be sure. But it sounds like it’s falling in the favor of productivity so that’s a good thing!
Oh darling Hello and welcome back. You have written this with such love and enthusiasm, such melancholy and happiness. The imagery is breathtaking, your personal journey equally as. Congratulations on new your new role which you shall be amazing at, I have no doubt. You know how much I love your writing – this line “I wanted to reach my fingers out and touch something, but my hand, my Self, belonged to another plane” explains your journey to find yourself and I am happy that you have. I look forward to your posts – your life, your passions and more of your eloquent writing. Missed you (hugs) xxxx
Jen – thank you for your lovely words. It’s so encouraging to see that people are happy to come back to this blog after I have been away!
So glad you have returned… I’d been wondering what had happened to you. I love what you written – its so validating for all of us who write of the things we love… and wondering if that is enough… so looking forward to reading more of your journey
Valerie, you are definitely someone who I always feel writes of things that are important to her: your posts always come from the heart and have such an impact.
Wow – you are back at the Hurst! I can’t blame you for wanting to have more time there in all that beautiful countryside. Good luck with the new role. I too was wondering where you had gone with your beautiful writing, and look forward to more. Be very happy.
Thanks, Chris! It’s so wonderful to be here at The Hurst. You should see the place after the 3 million pound refurbishment. It’s an absolute palace!
It’s a pleasure to read your work, Gabriela. I’ve missed your stunning prose and imagery. This is just beautiful 🙂
Dianne, thank you – it’s such a privilege to feel I have been missed. There is always a part of me that wonders if anyone will notice if I don’t post, and then after so long, if anyone will come back to read 😉 Hope you are well!
your wish came true just in another form of a farm…
another place to nurture your soul…
Congratulations on your new job….
good to have you back…
Take Care….You Matter…
What a lovely comment – a poem in its own right! Thanks 😉
Lovely post, Gabs.
I got it wrong about Alice Munro! She’s still alive!
Enjoy your job and hope to see you in 2014 — back in the summer.
I’m so glad Alice is still around. I’m not ready to deal with her leaving the stage yet!
Lovely post! Shropshire, how beautiful it reads through your writing. My family is from Shropshire and hopefully I shall visit it one day. Congratulations on your new position!
You must visit Shropshire – it’s such a beautiful county. The land really looks untouched, just as it was always meant to be.
I’m so delighted to be reading your words again and to hear your wonderful news!
You are too kind, Letizia! I hope you’ve been well 😉
Welcome back Gabriela, we’ve missed you! But it sounds as though you’ve made the most of your time away. I loved the sense of painful nostalgia in your post, but with the fulfilling conclusion that you’re now in a place where you can feel free and inspired again.
Thanks, Andrea – it’s good to be back, both in blogland, but also where my heart is most happy!
I am Gabriela’s mother. I have always thought my daughter had a lot of talent but it is very satisfactory to hear other people’s comments and praises about her writing. This is a message for you good followers. Keep coming with your thoughts.
Ha ha! Thanks, Mum 😉
Lump in my throat, watery eyes; journeys, truths, finding where you need to be. Truly inspiring, Gabs. I’ve always wanted to come to the Hurst – now you’re there I have no more excuses xx
Alison please do come to The Hurst – we’ve got some amazing courses this year and the building itself is an experience.
About to download the brochure!! x
I enjoyed your heart-felt post. Welcome back!
Shirley, that’s very kind. Thanks for stopping by 😉
Your portrayal of longing and loss of place are palpable. This line is where i too often find my own heart: ” wish hard enough I will live there once more…” Beuatiful writing. -renee
Thanks, Renee – it’s a real day maker when one gets such positive feedback, and especially appreciated on a day that hasn’t stopped raining for one second. Still, I’m not regretting my move here!
You are welcome. Enjoy the rain. I love the occasional rainy day in the arid southwest!
I already said this, but…congrats, love! So well deserved, so right for you. It’s beyond beautiful to read your words again, especially with this surge of serenity emanating from this post. Yay.
‘Beyond beautiful’, Britt wiz zeez words you are really spoiling me!
silence is sacred. glad you find/found it.
I realise now that I have moment where I crave silence like I used to crave cheese or chocolate!!
Thank you for visiting my blot and leading me to yours!
A pleasure, Colleen. I appreciate you stopping by 😉
Hi and thanks for looking in on me. I’ve missed quite a lot recently including your blogs, so I’m happy to have found your beautiful writing again.
What nirvana. To have the “farm” and the freedom to write. Total bliss. I wish you health and happiness to enjoy every inch of it.
Love this and the kismet inherent in it.