“He drew a deep breath. ‘Well, I’m back,’ he said.”
– The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Home: a small rural village an hour or so outside of York, North Yorkshire. Roughly 60 or so houses, what I guess is at least over 100 acres of pastoral green, wild horses, and the cul-de-sac bus stops near the center of an outdoor library. And we don’t even have a shop.
For myself, the journey home takes approximately five hours by car, four by train, give or take any difficulties met on the road. The superplanar landscape of the Norfolk countryside (taken from animation, the absolute crushing of any depth) flies by my window whilst dad plays some track from an unknown 80s band, until the broads turn into the rugged heathland of the North country. By the time I arrive, it’s late into the evening. The lights from inside cast down the drive like lanterns wandering in the dark, and memory turns to revive the echoes of the years I spent here growing.
Like myself, I suspect that many of us would have felt almost compelled, by schooling, parents, or some other force, to attend university since a very young age. We are propelled forward towards some sort of forcible end, so much so that when we finally arrive the spectrum of emotion which falls into focus becomes almost impossible to pin down – excitement, disillusionment, anger, joy. Yet, more often than not, there also hangs over each of us the expectation (and memory) of the journey home. Each day that comes carries with it the anticipation of home, either for the break or, as for myself, an indefinite period of time.
Such times are often closely associated with positive thoughts, the faces of old friends, and the feeling of being somewhere more permanent, more secure. I recognise, however, that for some the thought of travelling home can bring about a feeling of discomfort, of a period in their lives that brings with it a wave of anxiety (for lack of a better term). On the one hand, these anxieties may be economically based: [a worry about the cost of travel (flights have risen on average 10 percent this month), especially for short periods of time home. On the other hand, the negative associations can stem more from threats to one’s safety or even a more ambivalent general attitude to the whole idea.
Home is not something you are lumped with, however, at least necessarily. Whilst I may have a special affection for the North and the United Kingdom as a whole, it was only through time away from either that this affection became more pronounced, that I became able to decide for myself what home was and meant for me. What I found, as it turned out, is that I felt just as strong a connection to the flatness of the Norfolk landscape, the cobbled streets of our fine city, as I did with the place of my childhood and memories. That home was, truly, where the heart is.
Perhaps like the small and unassuming heroes of Tolkien’s Middle Earth, it is at first the thought of home, and later the journey to, that allows us to find some respite amongst the difficulties that we face, whatever form that may take. It is the flame we light to guide us through the darkness.