This story is partly a record, a biography, and partly a supposition based on my knowledge of my friend. We spoke much together during the years I knew him and I knew of his history and his hopes for his future based on his understanding of his subject. Therefore after this brief explanation I have divided the account into two sections; the known and the surmised. He never used the word happy but always in his later years, after coming to Wales, expressed his contentment.
It was getting late, soon time for bed; late autumn approaching Samhain and the time of retrospection. There had been much of that lately; when he had moved to his present residence he had resolutely retired from everything he had known before, and dismissed from his mind the past seventy years. Or so he had thought. But in the last few days he had been having flashbacks to those days, and he wondered why.
Thinking to divert his mind he put on his favourite music cassette, the clear voices of (to him) the elves of Imladris and Lothlórien singing their songs. But the images persisted.
He saw the street of his earliest memories, a cobbled side street with a continuous row of terraced houses on either side, two up, two down with an extension at the back housing the kitchen and another tiny bedroom, the kitchen had a stone sink with a cold water tap and a hand pump supplying rain water from a tank beneath the yard, and a beehive boiler for the weekly wash. Gas lighting and coal fires together with the outside WC completed the picture.
Soon it moved to the private school where the infant class chanted their multiplication tables for the first lesson in the morning, Miss Cowell presiding, and the geriatric head master - a Mr. Pullen - who had caned one of the older boys for running across the local churchyard. Curious how he remembered their names after over seventy five years.
Then a succession of moves, into the country for a couple of years, then staying at a farm in a tiny village with almost no contact with the outside world, except that once a week on Saturday one of the farmers would harness up a wain and drive into the town some four miles away and anyone who wished could hitch a ride.
He put his horse and wain up at one of the many hostelries for three hours or so giving his companions time to do a bit of shopping. The children would run along behind for some of the time, some of the adults would walk too, any could climb aboard when they became tired.
Although there was a special constable in the village he had little to do except look to straying animals, just as in the Shire. He attended the tiny school where the older children taught the younger and the one teacher taught the older ones, and the old lady in the adjacent cottage kept a few sweeties for them.
Then they moved back into the city, he never forgave his parents for this, although their motive was purely for their children's education. More schools ending in matriculation at sixteen.
A dead end job in one of the council offices followed, although if he had been willing to study it would have been different. He had always liked to get his education from life, and had only resorted to book study in the last ten years when experience was not available.
Then the Royal Navy, he hated being given orders all the time, especially by the intellectual inferiors concerned, the experience took him forty years to recover.
Years spent working all hours earning enough to feed, clothe and house his family, years with little or no encouragement from others, culminating in his going home after an eleven hour day at the drawing board to get his own tea and eat it alone, the family now grown to late teenagers busy watching Coronation Street.
He staggered into the living room half blinded with an emergent migraine to sleep for an hour or so and wake with a thumping headache and being berated by his wife for (allegedly) paying more attention to other women than her. He did not blame her, she was probably just as stressed out as he and she was a nice lass at heart, they had had a reasonably good relationship in earlier days, and if his doctor (she did what she could) could not recognise a case of an imminent nervous collapse and sick building syndrome why should she?
He finally rebelled and told her that next day the house would go on the market, they would share the available capital and she could take anything from the present menage she wanted. He was pretty useless at that time and in no state to pay attention to anyone; she was the only love he ever had but the idiots of the law chose to approve his divorce on the grounds of adultery. Then they went their separate ways, but somehow managed to remain on speaking terms.
He had recalled that in his search for understanding he had become a member of an American Mystery School which to his horror employed the same ostentatious stationary as that nation so love, and a distance had developed between them from that day. She was fire fixed as he was fire mutable, a most unsuitable match by any standards to any astrologer.
He had wept when she died after nineteen years separation, he would not visit that place which held so many memories mostly unhappy but sent a spray of flowers with a card saying 'Bye love. See you.
When he was forced to retire a kindly social worker pointed him in the right direction. For five years he shut himself away, licking his wounds and gradually recovering some self-respect. Then a holiday in Wales showed him ground into which he could transplant his roots with some hope that they would take and prosper.
Four years later when High Street did not look quite as it should the optician told him that he was in the process of losing his central vision.
His engineering workshop and drawing board were sold, ending a lifetime ambition, and he began to invest the proceeds in books, for the first time since leaving school book learning became the only option. A few years later a minor stroke complicated things, and his trusty Remington typewriter ceased to be a useful tool.
A sudden impulse led him to buy a word processor and a new career began, his letters and articles were accepted by the associations with which he corresponded. But ever his first love was for Mother Nature, never was he more contented than when in the open air, in the countryside or tending the tiny part of Her mantle with which he was entrusted; towns and cities horrified him. Above all he needed fresh air, the stale air of the city and the air-conditioned building stifled him.
The clear elven voices began to sing the last verse of their lullaby, Sing we now softly, and dreams let us weave him, wind him in slumber ... Time for him to be wound in slumber too, he thought. A cup of Ovaltine and a couple of digestive biscuits to encourage sleep and he retired to his bedroom-sanctuary.
This was the one room he had managed to re-decorate, the ceiling was blue as the sky, the top half of the walls above the waist rail dark green like oak leaves in summer, the lower half brown as the hillside in Autumn and the carpet green as the grass, the curtains over the south-facing window gold as the sunrise in the Summerlands of his dreams. He had done a thorough job and it cost a lot of money and work.
Then he settled down between the sheets to await the Bringer of Dreams.
He rolled out of his sleeping body as he had done so many times before, although it was only in the last few years that he had realised the significance of the incident.
But this time it was different. His body was calling urgently Come back! Come back! We have a problem!
Always he had been reluctant to return, this time doubly and trebly so. And never before had he been recalled. This time there would be no return. He realised that the problem was for his body but not for him, although the Silver Cord still connected them and he was aware of the situation he knew that there was nothing he could do, the body that had served him faithfully for over eighty years was about to start to disintegrate.
He commenced his dive down the dark tunnel as the brain functions closed down, he landed on his feet in the midst of the ball of orange light at its end. The Silver Cord was finally broken; at last he was freed from the shackles of the Earth Plane.
It was pleasantly warm, but he knew it was burning away the remnants of his physical life, the mist before his eyes had gone and would not return, so had the arthritis, and the mass of lies, half truths, evasions and hypocrisies accumulated during more then eighty years of physical existence.
All the errors, misjudgements and disappointments, and the few successes, each one an opportunity to learn, had been absorbed into his understanding and knowledge and he was left with them and the wisdom he had accumulated over his many lives.
In a recent article he had asked Ancient and Mighty Ones,
You whom I have served and worshipped throughout my many lives, Have I at least in part fulfilled Your Mandate?
And back came the answer from the Lords of Karma and from Mandos a resounding YES. He knew he was free to go back to the Summerlands of his dreams.
Slowly the orange light dissolved and he found himself standing on a grassy path amid scattered trees on a low hill. Before him the path wound its way down the hill to where it crossed a stream by a narrow stone bridge, then on and on over an open country of low rounded hills and in the distant darker green of extensive woodlands.
He could see no men's dwellings on the hills but a smear of woodsmoke within the trees showed there was a village there, a few people minding their own affairs in their own way untroubled by nanny governments seeking power over them. He found he was dressed in a doublet and trousers of rough homespun green cloth, a leather belt around his waist with a knife in its sheath on his left hip, and neither footwear nor head covering, all much to his liking.
He walked down the path towards the bridge, here he turned left into the open woodland, mostly oak and beech. He walked up the path beside the stream until he came to the pool, here he stopped and waded into the stream and held his feet in the low fall by which the water left the pool for the sheer pleasure of feeling the water trickle over his feet and toes.
Then he regained the path and walked on until he saw the two noble rowans at its end, and passing between them heard the wood-owl call its greeting and the Woman standing beside the cottage door waved Her welcome.
He ran to Her and they folded each other in their arms, they had separated over eighty earth-years previously, she to remain on the Inner Planes, the Summerlands, Tir na nOg or Middle Earth whichever you will, he to re-incarnate as Man and gain further experience on the Earth Plane.
She was the female part of the Individuality of which he was the male part.
Then hand in hand they passed beneath the porch with its entwined rose and woodbine through the open door of the cottage which closed behind them. As on the Earth Plane journeys end in lover's meetings, and their meeting as all others ended in their shared mutual delight as the Lady of the Wood had foretold.