The goodbyes at Nether Springs were hard. It really felt like I needed another week. In fact, Pete suggested as much. I was feeling like I was just finding my feet and then it was time to go.
Oh well, everything belongs.
The connections that were made in Northumbria, with the people, with the NC and even with the land will be lasting ones, no doubt.
We dropped off the hire car at the station and boarded a southbound train for Bristol. This train trip would easily cover 2/3 of England in about 5 hours. We got to see the Midlands, including the amazing sight of a canal flowing across a road…25 feet above it! (Look it up).
Mile upon mile of farmland. I was once again impressed with how agricultural England is.
We stopped in Birmingham, only to find out that riots broke out later that day right behind us. (we were later to become suspicious that our presence was somehow CAUSING the violence…and maybe even Amy Winehouse’s death! One more bit of bad news while we were there and we planned to slink out of the country early to prevent even more widespread catastrophe).
We stopped in Leeds and I stuck my head out the carriage door for a moment…yes, I could still hear echoes “My Generation” reverberating off the walls all the way back to February 1970.
We arrived in Bristol and were met by our friend Emma once again, who piled us all into her van, and whisked us down the road to her cottage in the shore town of Swanage. We had a couple of hours of windshield time to fill in the gaps in each other’s stories, and we had great conversation all the way to the sea. Emma was a great tour guide, showing us the sights as we travelled. We got settled into the 400 year old cottage, ordered take-away Tandori from right next door, and had a grand time sitting around the table with Emma and packing away the curry.
The next few days were quiet, consisting of a lot of walking, and spectacular views of the Isle of Wight and Swanage Bay. Swanage is a classic English shore town, including stripped deck chairs, amusement pier, Punch and Judy shows and unpredictable weather. We took a steam train from the village several miles up the tracks to Corfe Castle, a spectacular ruin.
I was beginning to really tucker out. I could absorb no more. I was getting lost between the sense of adventure and a need to be in my home. It had been nearly a month on the road, and it turned out to be (for all four of us, I think) long enough. I had stopped processing experiences and was simply stuffing them away like I was at an all-you-can-eat buffet: making sure I got my money’s worth, not tasting the food anymore, just swallowing it.
It was at this stage that I realized some kind of change had occurred. A pleasant weariness and disconnection from “place” that usually only takes a week of solo wilderness travel to produce. It begins with EMERSSION into “place”, near obsession with “place”, focus and intensity regarding “place”. Then the idea of “place” burns up altogether because of that intense focus. Like looking at a piece of dry paper with a magnifying glass for too long, it suddenly bursts into flame and disappears.
Pilgrimage. Becoming a Pilgrim.
It’s no longer the destination. It hasn’t been the longing for home for a while now. It’s the third place in between the two ends. It’s all about where you are at the moment. Not what tomorrow brings. Not who is looking at you. Not how you appear anymore. It’s just about the next step. And it has a peacefulness all it’s own.