My father was a man more deeply at home in nature than he was at home in himself. I know this more fully now that he is dead.
My parents moved to the house in which my father died twenty eight years ago. Due to the priceless system of public rights of way that criss-cross all over the small island that is Britain, from the path beside my parents’ home you could begin a walk to just about anywhere.
Every time I go ‘home’ to that place and walk out the back door and up the Warren where the sandy soil makes way under my welly boots, I walk there with my father. As I traverse the walks we took together the words and silences we shared are somehow returned to me.
My father knew the names of all kinds of trees and which of the Kings and Queens of England they may have been alive for. He knew the place by the railway line where badger cubs play at night and where osprey perch above the river hoping to dine on trout.
My father’s addictive personality made the emotional terrain of his own heart a foreign and frightening place. Outside, in the muted shades of the undulating landscape behind his house, he was at home. As my mother, sisters and I walked with him there he could invite us into the topography of his heart in a way that was harder for him to do indoors.
We buried him on the edge of the village graveyard, up next to the bramble bushes that form the boundary of the neighbouring field which borders the sandy Warren where so many of our walks began. His body lies there now, slowly becoming the loam upon which for so many years he trod.
Soon after we buried him there my mother noticed a new path that had been forged from the trees on one side of the graveyard, across the grass and right over the top of my father’s grave to the field beyond. The tracks were those of his friends, the badger.