Last weekend I went back to visit the place I used to live in New Mexico and was ambushed by some of my thoughts and feelings. The New Mexico period was a chapter in my life full of bright hope and deep disappointment, when I was both nourished and starved, a place of vision and of dark depression, of lasting friendships and surprising deceptions. What was I looking for on my return trip, and why did I find myself weeping so often? What did I gain by going back? Why do any of us look back?
One thing abundantly clear as I walked the old paths again was that the magic that drew me to those mountains in the first place was located in the land itself, not the town or the people who lived there. I’ve hiked those hills in dry seasons and wet ones and each has its own special gifts. And those rivers, cacti, trees, packed earth and rocks (oh the amazing cliffs and boulders!) still have the power to center me and remind me that this planet is my home. I saw a Golden Eagle soaring off the cliff edge while I stood with my boots in the snow and my face in the sun. I felt the spongy earth where spring thaw moistened the edges of the path and smelled hot pine needles on south facing slopes, and I knew the ice at the edge of the lake would be gone in a few weeks. The cycle of seasons is the same and yet everything changes. The land itself contains the past, the present and the future.
I was also reminded in my old town that the daily trappings of life, the workplaces, stores, churches and neighborhoods are not permanent and can never confer emotional, physical or spiritual security. Driving by my old house was a painful disappointment. The new owners let the lawn turn to weeds, dug up the rose bushes and started, but didn’t finish, painting the exterior a hideous brick color so the north side of the house is now half gray and half red. A sacrilege after all the hard work and love I poured into that home! But it was no longer mine.
Why do we revisit our past? I suppose there are as many reasons as there are readers of this blog and I wish I could hear all your stories. For me the chance to revisit both the joy and pain of my previous life reassured me I am still fully alive, still able to experience a wide range of emotions and ideas, and it gave me confidence that I can thrive in spite of surprises in the future. Sometimes it is just good to pull out the old mental snapshots and look at how we got to where we are and who we are now. Sometimes it is good to look back and remember why we make similar or different choices now than we did then. Sometimes going back gives us a chance to finish mourning what we have left behind, or to rejoice in the moments that brought us to the present.
So here at the end of winter after returning from my old home town I’m reflecting again on life and death, on laughter and tears, hope and resignation. The cycles of starting and mastery and decline, the seasons of life. With spring on the doorstep I wish each of you times of going back home and of coming home to yourself. Of light and dark and new insights.
Blessings on your journey.
Eileen Terry is an active contributor and dear friend to Celtic Way.
Read more about Eileen here.