On the day Bowie died, I drove from Stratford to a small town where I met Tish Farrell, a blogger friend. She made lunch and we talked about writing and traveling, and then I said goodbye and drove back down to Stratford, Shakespeare’s town. It was the first two weeks of a dry January, the pristine town of Stratford-upon-Avon, feeling cleansed by Shakespeare, a kind of god (or priest, at least). When we asked the guy who ran our flat, which way to the shops?—he pointed, through the gap in Shakespeare’s garden. And it felt like a portal to a place that’s very far away.
I went to bed early each night and woke before the sun, writing by candle, taking long walks at dawn. When it was time to go, we dropped our keys in the box and headed south to London.
We’d been on the road since late October, driving from Germany to Amsterdam by way of France to see friends—a month in Scotland, another in Ireland, the last, in England—exiting late January through France again, back to my mom’s small town in southern Germany.
With all the stuff in our used German car (two kids, a guitar, a Le Creuset Dutch oven, Legos…) and many kilometers to go, how badly we needed our space when we sprung out of the car, and into our rental—and withdrew to our separate corners, for peace and distance.
From London we drove to Bath for a final week, the light noticeably later in the day, a muddy path across the road from our cottage, birds in the morning again.
A final night in Canterbury at a strange hotel before we took the ferry from Dover to France, a last night before the drive home to my mom’s the next day.
Early February in the south of Germany, Dawn and I made plans for Berlin: and with three months left on a nine-month stay, the weeks filled up with plans as winter conceded to spring, and I milked the mornings for long walks in the woods, with scant views of the Black Forest south, windmills and farms, golden fields.
Mom wrote me at work to talk about the weather: wet snow on the rooftops, but not enough to shovel, or salt the walkways.
And I remembered that one day on the train from Stuttgart home, when it turned from rain to snow, and we climbed the road from the train station and made fresh prints along the way.
I played the last Bowie album and sat in the den with a cup of tea thinking, I love January if only for the light, for the returning birds and strange flowers that bloom on the shrubs out back, that bring us hope, and reawaken our senses. I love the months, each one: and there’s some peace in that.