I walked into the woods this morning, into the heart of the forest. The trees towered above me, still in full leaf, not yet ready to surrender their leaves to the siren call of autumn. In just a few steps it was though I was in another world. No voices, no traffic. Nothing to be heard save the whispers of the wind as it danced through the branches of the trees, the distant rushing of the waters of the Tyne, and the occasional plaintive call of birds.
It has been two months since I came here to live, returning to the North. I had been warned that it would be a culture shock for me, after so long living in London, in Sydney, in cities, in the busier south. The warnings of others stirred worry in my soul as I fretted over whether I had made the right decision moving so far away from the life I once had. But what was this life I had been so desperately holding on to, the life I left behind? Married to a man who betrayed his promises to me, who had a child with another woman, who kept secrets, lied again and again. What was holding me to the south but shattered dreams and broken oaths?
I walked into the woods this morning, taking in the regal splendour of the trees, their stories singing in my heart. I saw the rowan trees laden with berries, the pentagram etched on each fruit reminding me of the power they hold, the protection they offer. The silver green leaves of the birches fluttering in the wind, as though they still sigh for the loss of the goddess who once resided inside them. The oak trees standing guard in the forest, their wisdom and strength a testament to all that is good and worthy.
For years I came to the North only as a visitor, or at least that is what I told myself. But there is something about coming back to the place where you were born, the land where the bones of your ancestors lay buried in the earth, mingled with the ashes of your grandparents. Each time you walk on that ground it claims you, calls to you. And the North called me home.
I walked into the woods this morning. The wind carried a chill from the North, a hint of the colder weather that waits to greet us. Yet the thought of frost, ice and snow does not freeze my heart. It warms me. As I lost myself on the paths of the forest, with only my dog for company, I kept her close by me as we watched a squirrel gather food for the winter. The season is not to be dreaded. If we do not know what it is to feel cold, we cannot know the comfort of warmth, of wrapping up in a coat and hat, of sipping hot tea in front of a fire, or staring in to the depths of a warming glass of red wine safe in the comfort of home.
The North called to me when I was broken, when I had been so disappointed and hurt, that I thought I could never find a way to happiness or contentment again. Yet here I am, with a lightness in my spirit, as I sit in my home putting words on the page, a cup of coffee on my desk before me, looking out of my window at the purple majesty of a copper beech, and the graceful delicacy of a silver birch, as the trees sway in harmony with the wind. I came home. I came to the North.