As the grasses caught the breeze and drew him on further and deeper into adventure, Iosa remembered the Farm. A breath of the wind curled around his memory and called to him from where he used to be, from who he used to be. Iosa couldn’t stop the urge to continue but his mind and a portion of his heart lingered for a moment in the joy of that life which used to be home.
There was a simple safety, back there, on the farm. Each day had been fresh. Each day: beautiful and filled with love. But, as the years added one to the next, the freshness faltered. Just slightly, but enough to become an annual, dulling cycle of repetition. And Iosa had felt himself become ever more aware of the boredom that his father and his uncles felt. They were fun, for sure. They were strong and sang the songs of the season but there was, Iosa felt, a self-inflicted veil in their gaze that kept them from wanting more. If that curtain were to be torn, they would see. And, they would have to set out to find, ‘the more’ that they had hidden from. Iosa felt the farm becoming … smaller, somehow. His father and his three uncles seemed settled. Seemed unnecessarily content. He vaguely remembered the excitement of extending the farm to add new fields, to grow more crops, to herd more animals. That first harvest of a new field was a triumph. But even that advance and celebration had been lacking in the last few years. And so, for Iosa, the farm had begun to feel overly known, overly small and overly safe. Iosa needed a fight. Needed to rebel. He had certainly pushed the boundaries and his Mother had heaped grace and forgiveness all over his mistakes and presumptions. However the fight refused to die. In the last eight months or so, Iosa had felt the rebellion in his heart switch. His mother had seen it too. His father had not. The switch was not a fading or even a better control of his outbursts. The switch in his rebellion was a heightened desperation to enter into adventure; until now it had always been to run from responsibility. His mother delighted in the change she had seen.
Each day still woke with the sound of birdsong. Iosa could almost hear it now as he walked. And even though their song was distant, the feeling of wonder and marvel at their daily celebratory peals remained. He marvelled still at the birds’ resilience and their contentment. Each one lived encamped in a circle around their home. Nestled around the small configuration of wooden sheds and huts. They refused to fly far; they had no need to. But they could have. They should have. And Iosa could not understand why they wouldn’t. He wondered what the birds were waiting for.
He had felt angry at their refusal to fly. “So, what,” Iosa wondered, “was their song calling into being?” He wondered at their hope. They were definitely waiting for something. Expectant of something. Iosa was convinced that no one and no thing would get up that early unless there was something incredible about to happen. Still, day after day nothing had happened. Iosa wondered if perhaps their song was not one of hope, as it sounded, but one of regret. Had they missed the moment?
Iosa felt a brightness in his walking. Finally something had happened, “Perhaps this is was what the birds were waiting for? Perhaps this is the day?” He continued to press on into the rebellion of taking ground, the rebellion of adventure. As he strode forward, Iosa’s confidence overtook his fear and overcame his wondering. He marched determinedly and remembered his mother’s commentary on the birdsong.
“That’s what hope is, Iosa” his mother would say. “Longing and looking and knowing that one day it will happen.”
“But what is, ‘it’?” Iosa would ask.
“We all have a dream,” she reassured him, “The birds have their dream. I have my dream. What is your dream, Iosa?” she would ask.
Her gentle conversation and that ‘hanging question’ would often have been preceded by an immature outburst: Iosa had many of those. And he had always known he had a dream but he could never focus long enough to join in with it.
His mother would continue to speak as Iosa broke down in tears, or stormed from the room, or simply allowed the question to echo in his thinking. She would say, “One day you will see it my son, one day you will live it.”
Iosa felt that, only now, as he walked, was his dream beginning to truly form.
Those shrugged answers and confused mumbles of his childhood were nothing compared to the dream that now unfurled with each step he took.
The hut where Iosa, his mother, his father and his younger sister Beth lived was, certainly, home and a place of dreams. Sixteen years of dreaming. Not just a space to be, to rest or shelter from the storms. But a place of love and of laughter. That small home was the centre of Iosa’s world. And until now that farm had been the extent of his world. Those birds and animals that would circumnavigate the farm and orbit the family’s existence seemed to know the farms welcome. Seemed to belong. Iosa increasingly didn’t belong. And certainly he feared would never belong again.
Each of his uncles also had a home and, together, the four families lived amongst sheds and coops and shelters and fields. His great aunt also had a home. The one, until recently, she had shared with her sister (Iosa’s grandmother) and her brother-in-law (Iosa’s grandfather).
Iosa’s mother had planted forget-me-nots around the perimeter of their small dwelling and from this nestling of blue and gentle green rose a neat repetition of timber. In a moment of resting, aged seven or eight, Iosa had taken his eyes off the clouds and counted the timber cladding. He knew that to the front were 27 wide knotted planks. Each one slightly laying over the edge of the one to its left. Iosa had never quite worked out how, the left and right sides also had 27 planks but the rear of the hut only had 26. “Why would anyone do that?” he wondered. His father didn’t understand the question. “It is just the way it is.” He would reply. Such an accepting response only served to increase Iosa’s young frustration. The ‘almost cube’ of his existence was not ‘right’. Gatherings of dried grass formed a warm covering of a roof and their home was comfortable. Iosa stretched out his hand as he walked and could almost feel the rough-hewn timber against his fingers. The gentle thud as each tip dropped to the next plank.
Iosa began to count his steps now. To find a rhythm. As he did, he became thoroughly aware of his walking. Aware of the shapes of stone and ground under his feet. The untrodden path of undisturbed creation. It half resisted and half welcomed his progression. Iosa was walking South-West. A war raged under his feet; alternate footsteps landed on smooth encouragement with cool grasses wrapping his legs. Their counterstep met occasionally with a sharp rock or scratch of thistle. The battle of thorns and brambles, a companion-reminder of the effort taken to clear a field for pasture or crop. Iosa made a path where there, perhaps, had never been one before.
He pressed on trying to shake the memory of home and replace it with the expectation that had gripped his life. He closed his eyes and tried to imagine the summit of the mountain range that had called to him for so long. He continued eyes tight shut. The grass, surrounding him as he ventured deeper and further, flurried and fuelled him. He felt the grasses brush against his cheek and opened his eyes. All he could see was tall grasses leading him further. Further still for he could not remain. But to where it would lead, he still did not really know. His dream had not yet become. For now, he knew only this: he had to leave.
Iosa shook his head. That was his old dream – his old rebellion – his old fight. “No.” Iosa spoke to himself with such certainty that he surprised himself and had to stop. He laughed. “I’m not running away. I’m not escaping. I am walking in my future.” Iosa had to walk into his future. And for now, the mountain range, that rose like a cloud on the horizon, was enough future for Iosa to comprehend.
His father and his uncles had been on similar adventures. Their adventures had taken them east. They had returned from the wilderness with wives but, Iosa was not convinced that returning could even be a subplot in his dream. For Iosa’s people, the mountain range marked the edge of possibility. He had never known of anyone that had crossed to the other side. There were, of course, faint stories of myth and legend that had always delighted the young Iosa. And now, he was in a way becoming a new myth; forging a new legend.
Beyond the family’s farm to the east, through areas of nothing, were peppered other such farms. Other such families. Some: large, historical tribes of family upon family. Some: single units beginning their own encampment of life. Iosa knew his family’s history well. He knew his heritage. He had heard the stories long and often. And he had delighted at his Grandfather: the maverick explorer. He had, many years before, followed the river to the stream to its source and founded their farm. That’s what the songs his uncles sang spoke of. But Great Aunt sang different song.
His grandmother’s sister had come too. The three of them: his grandfather, his grandmother and her younger sister, Iosa’s great aunt. She was now the oldest member of the family. And she had one song that only she would sing. As she sat, spinning wool, Iosa would hear the sound and rush to catch its tale. Her song spoke of a warrior woman, of a woman unafraid and unrestrained. She followed the river; she waded through its waters and she found the spring of life. Iosa loved the song and had loved his grandmother dearly. Iosa was convinced that the song was about his grandmother. So Iosa often wondered, “Who was the real maverick, who was the real impetus to leave and journey into adventure? Whose dream had brought his family to this place of being settled?”
Great Aunt would often say, “Iosa, my child. You have an adventurer’s eyes and you have an adventurer’s heart.” And as Iosa walked he heard the song again on the wind. The melody and rhythm of a different time, of a different way of being. And he felt the beat echo in his heart, and he looked with his eyes: wide open, to see where his dream may lead.