On a clear day, just after a drop in temperature, they open up as endless as your life seems in childhood. On a day like this, when clouds display a full arsenal of grays, when rain is announced every few minutes, the mountains seem closer. Too close. They press against you, crush you, lock you in. You begin to understand the danger of the Alps. Ominous is a word created for that brief silence before the storm breaks.
So you start running. Mud, pebbles, asphalt: the terrain varies and so do your steps. What you cannot get used to is the running between borders. After a lifetime of being punished for your nationality, of not being allowed in or out of countries, it is such a thrill to be able to weave your way in and out of France and Switzerland. A grey, moss-covered border stone dating from the 1870s is your only witness.
You moved to the area unwillingly the first time round. You had to give up a good job, family and friends, a good-sized house in the process of being slowly renovated, the language of your comfort. The children were fully dependent on you that first time, each day was a struggle with unfamiliarity. You couldn’t wait to get back ‘home’.
But home had moved on, as had you. You found yourself struggling to fit in. You were still the alien, perhaps even more so with your new-found love for croissants and small coffees. You missed the extreme landscapes, the seasons. You remembered breathing in air so fresh that it rushed straight to your lungs in unadulterated delight.
Life has a way of playing with your emotions. Just when you are settled in again, when you have arranged your memories in a neatly labelled box to be put up in the attic, it is time to resurrect them. You are going back to the space on the border for a second time. But this time it’s all different again. The children are older, your French is better. You continue working, but you are determined to make each minute in this wonderful location count. You are not going to leave this area again, regretting all that you didn’t do and see.
Home is a word you have bandied about far too often in your existence. You’ve believed you were at home in many places, with many people, but have you ever fully understood it?
Yet there is a lilt in your peasant soul as you run through the fields, worrying about the harvest.
The peaks and valleys, now green and pleasant, now eerily bare, mirror your own innerscapes. You surprise yourself with the sudden onset of storms, but you recognise a twin spirit.
If you weren’t so marked by years of taunting, you might almost think you are communing with nature.
Whether this is home or not, this is the best of you. Use this time wisely. Write it all down.