Hard to remember why I love Ithaca so much as I stare sadly out of the window on a rainy day in Tunbridge Wells. Trying to motivate myself to go for a walk in the damp forest and failing miserably. For the first time for a long time, I feel too down to go and do some Yoga; which is my daily habit; even that is annoying me. There is always a point for me where things I enjoy start to become a religion and an answer, then they bore me. Perhaps it was drinking a little to much red wine, again, last night with a roast dinner that has left me feeling sad and melancholy, or it is just this perpetual rain and dreariness which seems to have lasted all January. Or perhaps it is the fact that we went for a walk in the wind and rain near Firle in East Sussex and it was beautiful but spoiled by a grim pub where no one knew our name and the long journey back on a busy road; so many cars.
Or perhaps it is because I am not in my home and I am simply home sick for my small stone cottage, which I re built from a ruin, for my fire place with wood we spent last winter chopping, my cat who came up my stairs for the very first time, when I found out my best friend on the Island, Elizabeth Maclennan had died nearly three years ago, and has stayed ever since, or for my garden that I have toiled in to transform from a field of thistles into an oasis….perhaps all these things.
Perhaps none and perhaps nothing that is explicable, Over twenty years living and walking on the Island, the question I am most asked is “why did you come here and why did you stay”. I have never been able to answer it, to my or the enquirers satisfaction. Of course I have said some facts, what happened, precid my life on Ithaca into a paragraph, but as I have spoken the words, every time we all know that I have not given the answer any of us felt was authentic.
I was not lying but the truth is there is no answer, not one that could be spoken, no logical explanation. And every time I leave and think that’s it: because of lack of money, arguments or difficulties with people,lonliness, Brexit, taxes; I cant, I am drawn back and I can’t leave; I am pulled back and I do not have the strength to fight this metaphysical pull.
Of course we could explain it with: the views, the flora and fauna, the clean sea, the empty beaches, the people, the bars ( where everyone does know your name), the lack of traffic, it’s history, the folklore, it’s Odyssean mythology, the fresh air shown in the lychen that settles in ancient olive trees; an endless list. It is all of these things and none of these.
Ithaca is magical, it is spiritual, it is rich and Ithaca will speak to you and bring you home from a life that is understandable, Ithaca makes sense, Ithaca is a state of being that so many of us long for. It is not about ego, it is not about status or the superiority of human beings. The land, the sea and the weather guides us and tells us what to do; we are mere mortals and we can surrender and give up fighting – the question needs re phrasing
Perhaps it could be: ‘ what keeps bringing me back to life in the UK?”. well that one is too simple; money and love. In this may be the reason why so many holiday makers who although they have to keep returning to their material homes- for love, family and money, once they have found this special jewel in the Ionian sea, keep returning and eventually start asking different questions of themselves”what can Ithaca teach me and what can I give to Ithaca?”