A Place to Belong

Before we moved here I was given a gift of the book The Shepherd’s Life which bore the inscription “Enjoy creating your very own ‘Tale of the Lake District’.  Good luck, have fun and live the dream!”; enough to bring a tear to my, rather stressed, eyes, afraid of the challenges that were ahead of us (although I also received a knitted bookmark which looked more like a willy warmer and helped cheer me right back up).  I saved reading this book until we were in situ, and I’m glad I did, as I feel the message it spoke, of a people as much part of the landscape as the fells themselves, was so much clearer to me here.

This sense of belonging is something quite unknown to myself and J, we have lived a, vaguely, itinerant lifestyle.  I moved from my family in Leicester to North Yorkshire, then on to York and then, on a whim after falling in love with a house, on to the North East.  Once we moved there we both thought it would be somewhere we’d stay, and we started to put down roots – but life had different plans, and our dreams changed, and after 11 years we moved west to Cumbria.

Part of me envies the feeling of belonging that the author, James Rebanks, speaks of within the pages of his book – a sense of belonging to a place and knowing your family has been in that place for centuries.  Equally, I think the itinerant in me would feel slightly trapped – though there is an argument to say that if I had grown up in this different world then I would be a different person and, perhaps, not have such itchy feet (unless from too many cowpats in my boots).

Today, in memory of the fallen, we took in our first church service since moving here.  Neither of us are particularly religious, though both of us were brought up with religion, and both of us were keen to attend some services as we feel the church is an important part of a small rural community (although admittedly, for me, much of this belief is based on the regular churchgoers in The Archers).  We were nervous at how the kids would be during the service, but the church considerately provides a box of toys, which kept them occupied throughout.  It was clear from the congregation afterwards that they were happy to see, and welcome, newcomers and it’s something we will be doing more regularly.  But what really touched me was the short service at the cenotaph in the village prior to the church service.  I can’t recall having attended a remembrance service where the names on the memorial were read out by members of the congregation, and what really stood out to me was the fact that many of the names were familiar, even to us newcomers.  It brought back to me message I took from The Shepherd’s Life, that these people and their ancestors are the bedrock of this community.  To be welcomed into that community, by the descendants of those who made such a huge sacrifice, is a privilege, and we have been blessed, not only to be surrounded by such natural beauty, but also to be surrounded by such warmth and kindness.  Although we were also reminded that it isn’t a one way street; our family are also important to this community as, as a member of the congregation said to me after the service, in a community like this “When one of us bleeds, we all bleed.”

I believe that, finally, this is now where we will lay down our roots and settle and our hope is that our children will have a sense of belonging to this place, it will be somewhere they know as home and somewhere they will always come back to, and feel it is theirs.

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