There’s a small valley a couple of hundred miles away, where most of my happy memories are based. It’s surrounded by forest on all sides, with a stream running through the middle. It’s nothing too breath-taking. The village is pretty run down and shabby, and the only things there are a retirement home and a dilapidated old church. A lot of the forest is relatively newly planted, so it’s not that pretty. But it’s special to me. It’s where my mind returns to. The valley is high up in the hills above the flood plain of a river, and from the highest point you can look out and see the land spreading below for miles in all directions.
I spent the first 9 years of my life there, the only time in my life I was really happy. I was sheltered from the world there. Nothing really bad ever happened. There was no adversity. Whatever stresses and strains my parents faced, they kept them from reaching me. It was idyllic, my own little private world. It was mine, and I belonged there.
I went back for the first time a couple of years ago. It felt very strange. Everything was more or less the same. Our old house had been extended and modernized, prettied up. But the land was still the same. The forest was still the same. But I didn’t belong anymore. I brought my corruption and my alienation back with me. My self-consciousness and feeling out of place. It wasn’t my safe place anymore. I didn’t fit.
But still my mind goes there on a regular basis. I desperately want to go back to how things were then. To regain my innocence – the capacity to enjoy being in the world, without the burdens of my mind. My chest aches for it. I know that there’s no going back, ever. But I still fantasize about moving back there. If I could persuade what remains of my scattered family to join me there. If I could find someone who could somehow mend my soul. So we could raise a new generation in that special place.