Today I stood under an old mulberry tree, the same tree I stood under countless times as a child with my sister. We had allocated branches then – hers the layered ones, mine a single, sweep-down canopy. Today, instinctively, I went to my spot and ate my first mulberry of the season, descendant of those mulberries from all those summers, many summers ago. And with that beloved, sweet-sour taste, came a flood of nostalgia, memories and tears.
I walked on through that childhood garden and ate plums, smelled the mud of the riverbank and the scent of a magnolia flower, and the tears kept on. Some days are like this, laden with wist as the trees are laden with fruit; most often in the summer, when days are long and smells and sounds are vivid. When another year has somehow gone and it seems impossible that childhood could be so far away; impossible that my own children could reach the branches of the mulberry tree. And yet they can. And that small child filling her tummy with mulberries from her allocated branch, she is, impossibly, their mother.
And I long for a simple time when the mulberry tree was just a mulberry tree and not a place to feel sorrowful, when life was just in one place and not spread over other places, sometimes thinly, sometimes reluctantly. When time was something to languish in and fritter away and disregard. When no-one I love has been lost and things didn’t seem to change.
Indigenous people – both Native American and Aboriginal Australian – who were removed from their homeland found significant health benefits, both psychological and physical, when returned to their country, even for short periods. It has become commonplace for Indigenous people to have a restorative return to their ancestral country.
Of course I didn’t have to leave my homeland by force, and I don’t hold those same spiritual ties to country that indigenous people do. Or do I? The restorative nature of a returning is palpable; the feeling of swimming in my childhood river is akin to spiritual. And my internal peturbances, those deep ones that might be near the soul, are soothed.
Leaving a soul-place is never easy, there is always a tug of something from deep in my chest area, toward my throat. The ties that bind perhaps? Those invisible, unbreakable bonds. It helps to know I can return.
January is a time of returning. Joyful returns I am sure, but there might be a tinge of that mulberry-tree-sorrow – a grateful sort of sorrow, for the wonderful childhoods many of us have here in Tasmania. The mulberry tree might be a piece of furniture, the taste of a pie, the sound of a screen door…
I can only be grateful for a perfect childhood and hope that my children will look back on their home with such love. To those who don’t have a heartland, a soulplace, a homeland, to you I say I’m sorry, and it’s never too late to find one.
To everyone this January, I wish you mulberries and magnolias and mud, a happy new year and many, many happy returns. XX