before arriving in valdedios, i come upon a house. it is one of many that i have seen wandering through these spaces. old and dilapidated, slowly falling apart as it is swallowed up by plants and weeds that crawl ominously across the surfaces of a place where people surely once lived, where children surely played, where the kitchen was surely alive with a fire and the smells of food cooking on the stove. now it stands, a sentry to the past, lonely and abandoned. an empty shell of life left behind. where are the laughter, tears, and voices now?
i am standing on the road, looking at this house and listening to the echoes coming from within and the ways they resonate in my mind and heart. they pull me into thoughts about my father and my imaginings of how he must experience spain when he visits here. sadly, he has no relationship with anyone in his family. there is an aunt and cousins that i have never met, and other relatives who have passed on and who myself and my brother never got to know. they have become shadows, slowly and inevitably moving away from us as time goes on. all because of a decades-old feud over an inheritance and the collateral damage of the thousands of kilometres between spain and australia. my father is a good man, and i know that he regrets this. i know that he has tried to rebuild bridges. but for reasons that i will never really understand, he now has no-one here. it seems that the water that falls from the sky here is thicker than blood on that side of my family…..
like a moth to a flame he still comes back to this place, again and again, tasting the bitter seed of suffering that sits inside his experience of remembering the past. when he gets back to australia he always says that he will never return, yet he always does. he wanders the mountains of asturias and he sometimes visits the village where he was born, looking for something. but i suspect that all he finds when he comes here are the ghosts of his past. an old shell of a life, like this house, overrun by weeds and plants, inhabited only by the echoes of what was once a family.
i question the location of the true anchor in my own life. where is my home? more and more on this trip i am learning that my heart lies in many places, but mostly in australia, that wildly stunning land on the other side of the world. i have spent so many years moving around restlessly, this way and that ~what for? now i see that it was probably so i could realise where my core lies and finally taste the sweet fruit of having taken the long way around.
although he is a generally jolly person, i sense that my father carries a wellspring of sadness within because he has no anchor, no reference point to help him shine a light on his beginnings and take him forward into understanding and growth. of course, his experience is a source of learning for me. it always was. i feel sad when i think about this part of his life, because as much as an immigrant might try to shrug off the past and start anew in another country, i wonder if there is always a sense of belonging that persists somewhere inside, a piece of luggage you always carry with you, no matter where you go…..
as a pilgrim, i carry everything i need on my back, and i set off on this journey with quite a bit of weight. yet, as i move along i can feel myself shedding the skin of old ideas and understandings ~becoming lighter and lighter in the process. in this case, new understandings about my father, the choices that he made in his life, and how these reflect in my own life have brought home the importance of family and of having that sense of place, somewhere to go home to.