Tuesday, 18 August 2015

The places we heal



The first thing that hits you is the wall of green. The change between the English landscape of Shropshire and that of Wales is marked and it is usually just beyond Welshpool that I finally breathe all the way out. There is suddenly more air and more space. The hills and mountains immediately rise to meet you and homesteads of any kind are few and far between.

The first time I visited Machynlleth was in 2009. I had moved back in with my parents only a few short months earlier. Dad's fishing trip to Wales was an annual affair and in recent years my mum had started going with him. They were staying in a little cottage on the river Dulas and, reluctant to leave me on my own after a shattering break up, had convinced me that an airbed on the living room floor of a tiny spider infested cottage was preferable to moping around an empty suburban semi, obsessively checking my phone.

The thing about despair is that it often throws in to sharp relief life's simple joys when you start to recover; the first time you actually taste the food you are eating, the feeling of the sun on your back, the smell of parched grass and that intoxicating sip of wine at the exact moment you want it.
My first visit to Mach was like that. My dad is similar to me in that he can be quiet for long periods of time and seems to draw nourishment from the country's wild places; rivers, seas, forests and woods. He panics in busy crowds and hates excessive noise. His mission during that first holiday was to take his daughter around his favourite hidden spots. The silent glassy pool where the trout jump in the gloaming, the dilapidated barn and its resident owl, occasionally gliding out over the fields, hunting at dusk. The constant musky smell of foxes. There was soul medicine everywhere.

Letting go is not a single act but a constant process of reminding yourself to put down the things that do not belong to you. I have discarded, buried and torched pieces of my past all over that landscape. Sometimes repeatedly.

I have returned every year since and each year has bought me closer to myself and closer to the person I want to be. Each year, in exchange for my offerings, I arrive home with a bag full of truth however inconvenient and cumbersome it might feel at the time. This year I returned feeling freer and more excited about the future than I have in a long time.