She wandered, this woman, age indistinguishable from the lines on her face. Up, down and along, the breadth and width of the country. Her face was strangely calm, bleached and blanched of the pain of past emotion, past trouble, past life, that had scored their marks indelibly on her skin with a sharp instrument as bitter as words.
Instead, now, she raised her countenance to the kindly sun, let the rain fall upon her eyes, the snow colour her hair and the wind slap her cheeks. At night she slept – never in towns, never on streets where malice and pain lingered, collected in corners like dirty washing up left too long, grey and grimy.
Instead, now, pressed against the earth, curled against a tree, buried by leaves or grass she found her rest.
She wandered, crossing the country, past looking but always searching for a memory. She filled her eyes and mind with sights and sounds to comfort her empty heart. Home; a memory, warmth, light, family, children – curdled like milk left out too long, sour and tainted with expectation. She sometimes took that memory out and carried it, looked at it like an untrustworthy torch, flickering and weak, two small faces raised to hers – “Mummy!”
Then she put it away, put it away in a box at the back of her mind and continued to wander.
She walked north, feet drawn by ancient blood memory and right-feeling, walking away her own family history but unknowingly walking where her ancestors had first come ashore, first lived in sight of the rest of the world.
One early morning, as she lay in the shelter of an old hedgerow she became aware of a fox looking at her, and perhaps stirred by the echo of a family pet, dog or cat, she stretched out a hand to it. It regarded her steadily for a moment, nose working busily to process all the rich human scents and then it turned and slipped away into the undergrowth again.
She sighed, a little saddened, but rose to her feet and raised a calm face to the horizon.
I stoop again to tighten the knot in the rag that’s holding my boot together and walk on, heart beating in time with the rich pulse of the earth.