A shared bravado united the guests - we had all dared threats of blizzards and ice to journey to this faraway spot, divided from the outside world by the sea on one side and by miles of snowy mountains on the other.
For four days, we guests moved from room to room in shape-shifting waves, like a flock of starlings - from the downstairs drawing room, to the billiard room, to the main hall, to the subterranean kitchens. At times, we splintered into smaller groups, swooping away to walk up the snowy hills or to drive to the local shop to buy sweets. Our numbers "gathered to greatness" at pivotal moments - the whisky-tasting, the cabaret, the wedding itself.
Food magically appeared - a roast chicken in our kitchen, a fruitcake and pots of tea after a walk, beer on tap in the front hall. We gathered late at night and rustled up spontaneous eggs and toast. Everyone was a host, everyone was a guest.
Family members, seen only at weddings and funerals, reappeared as if they had never been gone. Dead faces came to life again in sudden resemblances; new children recalled past children. Strangers became familiar.
I had a feeling, there, that my being did not end at the confines of my body, that I was part of an organism - a living, breathing thing with a life of its own. I was smaller, but - being a part of that thing - larger too.
After the wedding, we gathered in the hall to dance. The skills of most of us were rusty, but as each dance progressed, our confidence grew; with each repetition of the form, the dance became stronger, and a single pulse seemed to vivify us all.
After it was all over, and we reluctantly departed, our hopes for a major snowfall having been disappointed, I set off to fly home with my own little splinter-flock - two daughters and a son-in-law. As we arrived in my old home town on the way to the airport, I looked for a feeling of loss - a sorrow for those who live there no longer. But the feeling eluded me - I had my home with me, in the presence of the little group who travelled alongside me. Again I was not certain where I ended and they began.
It was a good feeling. I wonder if horses feel like that all the time.
|Photo by Sam Short|