Walking alone today on a rare clear, sunny but very cold winter's day, with our young yellow Labrador, was a good opportunity for contemplation as another year begins its cycle. Christmas already seems a distant memory as our lovely tree stands naked, propped against the brown bin, waiting to be recycled, which is the best we can offer in return for bringing a little magic into our home. I do hate putting Christmas away and yet there is something liberating about the space created. The almost empty calendar is pinned up in the kitchen waiting to be filled with whatever form our lives will take this year, a blank page waiting for its fill of the special and not so special occasions which make up a life.
Last year was a very special year as we finally celebrated our marriage and also witnessed my youngest stepson marry his girlfriend of the last eight years. There was, sadly, my father-in-law's funeral, attended by most of his steadily increasing family - a fine testament to his life but a sad loss to those who knew him. There is another big family wedding already booked in for June this year, my step-daughter, and another engagement has just been announced. Perhaps there will be more grandchildren soon - an empty nest and no grandchild of my own yet is both an opportunity and a vacuum.
But, as I walked through the empty Suffolk countryside this morning, what was really on my mind was the need to commit. Our house has been on and off the market for most of the last two years as we try and work out how it is we want to live, what is important to us, what is possible and what is just an impossible dream. Moving to Suffolk over 6 years ago, after more than 20 years living and raising my children on the Kent/Sussex border, has been a mixed experience and I have struggled to settle here.
We have come to love this strange, relatively empty and unspoilt county with its huge skies and stunning coast line, which we were lucky enough to explore on our boat when we kept it here. The rivers are beautiful and we appreciate the sense of space, the beautifully painted houses, the ancient towns and villages which nestle in the valleys and the warmth and friendliness of the people who make their lives here. What I have missed, though, are the deep connections I formed during those years of school runs, plays, matches, parents' evenings, putting down deep roots in a community which takes a long time. So, for over a year, we have really explored the possibility of going back to Kent/East Sussex and have spent a lot of time visiting the area, catching up with old friends, trying to decide if this is a real possibility or if life has just moved on too far, whether we are just chasing a dream and letting go of something that has real value to us here.
|The Orwell at Pin Mill|
|Butt & Oyster|
|Ponies at Pin Mill|
One way or another, the challenge this year is to commit and then to make whatever we decide to do be the right choice.
What challenges do you face this year, what decisions and life events are on the horizon?