A grasshopper string section played a buzzing, frenzied sarabande as I strode past a meadow overflowing with golden feathered tall grasses. A little mini-circle swamp cooled and stirred to my left, wafting an oozy smell of leafmold and decay. Wind fluffed and ruffled the trees and plants ahead of me as I walked; like a master musician, it played different notes and whispering tunes depending on the instrument of leaves upon which it dallied.
Sometimes, because I walk the same route each time, I think how boring my life is: going round in circles. Out of the neighborhood, on the looping path between the new meadow and the horse pastures, down the gravelly lane to the snail trail, out along the hilly road past the bakery, a sharp turn onto the lane that runs past the tidy farm, the grass meadow and through our old neighborhood, past the homes of my children's friends and teachers, past the barky dogs and through the gates to the pear allé. Finally a turn through the school parking lot and then up the hill on the sidewalk of slabbed square paving stones oozing pillowy green moss between the cracks like frosting in a layer cake, and finally back into the neighborhood.
It's a good walk and I've got it timed but I feel the need to shake things up now. Maybe I should head up the big hill out of the village, past the junkyard and out into the Scanian farmland where the twisted, blasted old willows slump beside the ditchs. Or maybe across the village to the other side, up America Hill where the cattle lazes in the evenings, and folk walk their dogs across the heather, all the way down to the river. Or out along the main road (though there's no sidewalk), with the spires of Holmby church in my sights across the fields. Or kittycorner across the length of the village, I could head toward the once-royal stables and wave at the storks nesting on the chimneys on their great nests.
Get out of that rut! Quit going around in circles! I admonish myself as I go, sure that my life is doubling back on itself, in constant motion with no real forward progress. It's the same round each year as well, the same holidays, birthdays, commitments, projects, traditions, parties. The same people, the same places. Is this what it feels like to stay in the same place forever? Is this what it feels like to be settled?
If I wasn't looping about, staying put, I wouldn't have seen how the dimpled daughter of my children's first babysitter has grown into a stunningly beautiful young woman. I wouldn't have seen how the daycare expanded with the baby boom in our village to add 2 spacious brick wings. I wouldn't have seen the cherry tree put forth its first fruit or the hedge begin its climb toward the sun. In the time we've been here, in this house, in this village, kittens have become cats, rambunctious young dogs have reached dignified elder statesmanship, babies have swung from the rung of one age to the next, passing from infancy to pre-adolescence in what seems an eyeblink. Gardens have flourished, homes have sprung up like mushrooms, businesses have come and gone and come again, neighbors have moved out and in and out again.
When I'm walking through the neighborhoods now, I'm laying down a scent of memories, rubbing up against each one like a purring tabby, the way it is now superimposed on the way it was last year, the way it was 3 years, 5 years, 10 years ago. Mixed feelings jostle and rumble in my head: is it better to be constantly on the move, filling every fiber of your being with new sights, new scents, new sensations, or better to see the gradual changes that come creeping through the years of the daily life you are living? Like trying to decide whether it's better in Sweden or in the States, there is no good answer: it's just different, I suppose.
I spent the first (hopefully) third of my life in nearly constant motion, moving from one place to another, one school to another, one experience to the next. I thrived on it, honestly. Living that way helped me entrench some of my natural tendencies to open-mindedness and the ability to roll flexibly with the flow and pushed me beyond others, including being shy among strangers and an introvert at heart. I seem to be spending the second third in roughly the same place, so far. It's a strange sensation to be so familiar with the landscape, the mental maps of the directions in my head whenever I drive to town, to know intimately what will flower in what order as the seasons cycle, and where.
When I went to college I was completely boggled by 2 of my roommates who shared a dorm room with me my freshman year. They had never been ANYWHERE ELSE than their hometown until they went away to school (and one of them couldn't take it, and moved back home after the first semester). As a military brat, I couldn't imagine, couldn't RELATE to people who had grown up in the same place and were seemingly content to never look beyond the borders of their immediate surroundings. I still can't quite imagine that, but at least I'm beginning to get a better feel for it, after 10 fairly stationary years.
So, I'll keep on walking, whether it's in loops or circles or staggering ellipses, because it seems that there IS progress being made, though it's not necessarily in a forward direction.