I have puzzled all my life about taking wing and putting down roots. When I was child we left my home town in the North of England and spent some years living in New Zealand. Returning as a young adult I was proud of my wider horizons. But watching and listening to my beloved grandparents, I couldn't help but see that wider horizons apparently weren't necessary for a happy life. My grandfather lived all in his life in a Northern mill town apart from a period in the army as a young man, about which he never spoke, when he went to Afghanistan and India. I always felt he was very happy in his skin, very assured on his own territory, a Lancashire man to the soles of his feet who was rooted in his place and happy to be so. He didn't want to travel. He was not narrow minded and indeed generous and tolerant in his assessment of people but he liked to be home. "What's the point in going places?" he would say. "I've everything I want here." He knew his place in the best sense. I could never be so rooted. I have lived all over the UK and travelled a fair amount and I used to feel that I could settle in anywhere, make friends, find my feet, until it was time to move on again. For me my family were my roots, not a place. Only since we came to live in Wales have I begun to have the strange, almost unsettling, sensation of putting down roots.
I think this is a good thing, this putting down roots, although I cannot be sure, but it is easy living up here with land and livestock to care for and family commitments to keep you at home, to begin to feel not so much rooted as tethered. And when you do it is good to take wing.
So we did, Ryanair wing. A friend came in and our son and daughter in law came up to stay for the weekend to help look after my father in law, and off we went to Provence to visit friends. And it was glorious. We admired the beautiful house and garden our friends are creating, balancing with much thought and care and skill, the aesthetics of a garden which surrounds a dramatic piece of modern architecture with their overriding wish to create a garden which will nourish all forms of wildlife. It was great to lift my head from my own patch of land and really look at someone else's garden, although I felt I needed months of reading and research to understand the soil and the climate which are so different from my own. We had so much good food and good wine and good conversation that we may be able to live on egg and chips and silence for a week or two now we are back.
We climbed towers and wandered narrow streets.
We found a beautiful medieval garden full of many of the plants I grow at home
and some that I do not. I never knew that capers had such beautiful flowers.
We ate an extraordinary meal at a restaurant in Arles, L'Atelier. This was food as an experience, a meal as a performance, a tour de force.
We walked in the Camargue, limpid light in the sky and the sea.
We stood by the pool in the darkness, the air still warm and pine scented on the skin. We walked and talked in a wood full of pine and cedar and butterflies. It felt as though we were away for a week, not a weekend, and now we are home it seems unbelievable that only yesterday we were eating a fabulous lunch in a restaurant on the square in the Provencal sun.
I woke this morning in my own bed to a perfect early autumn day, the sky streaked blue and gold. And home was beautiful too. The grass was green and lush, the garden a sea of tiny michelmas daisies and deep gold and mahogany rudbeckia. The apple trees were bowed down with red flushed fruit. Sedum and salvia hummed with bees and butterflies. I saw it differently, with renewed love, wandering outside for half a breathless hour before I went out to work this morning. Just for a moment I thought I understood something about the impossible tension between roots and wings and then it went, a butterfly thought. I shall stick with the simple: it is good to go away. It is good to come home again.