30th December

The Search Party

We would never have gone out if we had not intended to return. We left a fire in the grate, banked up with dross, and a light in the window in case we were still out after dark. We left provisions too: tea, coffee, sugar, bread, tins of this and that; the makings of several meals. And there were a few bottles, the contents of which we were sure would fuel stories and songs around the fire when everyone had eaten their fill. Yes, we certainly meant to return.

But somehow we were distracted. It wasn’t so much that we lost our way, more that we found a path we weren’t expecting, and we followed it. We were seeking something. That was the whole reason for going out. The path might lead us to whatever it was. But what seems to have happened is that after a while the path began, as it were, to follow us: it went where we went, rather than the other way round. And now I am not sure that it was a path at all.

We paused to rest not long ago, huddling together against the cold, and one of us said, ‘What is it we are looking for?’ Nobody could remember. Another asked, ‘Is it a thing, or a person?’ So we checked, but we were still roped together and we did not think anyone was missing.

The snow has stopped falling, but everything is white. The moon, though so very far away, is bright. Perhaps we should have left markers, to guide us back. It is too late for that now. We must go forward. We will reach somewhere eventually.

By the time we do, we will probably have forgotten the details of what we left behind – the smell of wood smoke, the lamp in the window – but something will stir in our memories. At the end of our search will be an unfamiliar place, which, nevertheless, we will recognise. And I think then we will discover that some of us did not make it after all, and we will remember their faces and their voices. And we will go into the warmth, taking them with us.

Reader: James Robertson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Guitar: Sorren Maclean
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