Whenever I teach a writing course, there’s always a session on the senses. The ‘sensual envelope’ used in writing can evoke strong emotions. Certain smells can remind you of specific moments, some colors can remind you of special events. The smell of bacon reminds me of Sundays with my grandmother, and Saturday cartoons with my mom.
We went on a trip last week to Cumbria, to the Lake District. For those of you who don’t know, it’s a spectacular part of England, full of lakes, waterfalls, open fields, and more sheep than you could throw a sweater at. It was beautiful, cold, and calming.
It was also the place I began my journey in this country what feels like an entire lifetime ago. I spent a grand total of eight months there, and the memories…
Rather unexpectedly, they came flooding back. I hadn’t expected that; I don’t know why, given my awareness of the link between the senses and memory. But as I passed the village I lived in, and the castles I visited, I was reminded. I was reminded by the mists rising from the fields, by the clouds hanging just below the mountaintops, by the thick accents I could still barely understand. There were many good times, and some pretty rough ones. The most difficult one, that I tried to take my own life there, made me quite contemplative.
Life since then has had a huge number of ups and downs, and I thought about all that wouldn’t have happened had I succeeded. I’m not attaching any positive or negative attributes to these memories, or to the actions after. They simply…are. I don’t think anyone gets out of life without regrets, and I have plenty of my own. But this trip made me realize that for all the past holds, we truly can’t conceive of what the future will bring. Our darkest moments really can be followed by absolute light. We learn, we grow. We change. Lessons come in many forms.
Sometimes, we even revisit, and we can see the road behind us as clearly as if drawn on a map. It’s the road ahead yet to be discovered; this lesson is one I’ll cherish.