Hemlock and Harmony

The steep lane is bordered by a busy rivulet which spills over on to the path as it reaches the bottom. I see a great hemlock plant growing there. I wonder at its fabled toxicity in this green paradise. I climb the hill. I know the sea is a mile or so in any direction but I  can’t see it beyond the high hedges.

I come to a gate by a sloping field. In the distance the sea merges with the golden  sky. I walked these lanes with my mother after my father died.

As the road levels off  I see a small group of people chatting together.  They wave to me. They seem settled where they are, by the wayside. I approach them and, in the light of the late afternoon sun, I recognise them from my past. What links them is that they all knew me. Without exception they were people who exerted some authority over me. And I made their lives hell, as I now recognise. I regarded them as  manipulators, bullies, destroyers of other people’s cherished ways. I saw their power but not their frailty.

There was a rector among the group, and the director of a local charity, and people I knew from work. We made our choices but now I see  that they and I were driven by our own histories. Maybe we were all doing our best.

My loved ones suffered from my clashes with these people, years and years ago, and still do. My family experienced the upheavals, deep in their souls, though I did not see it at the time. What they experienced perhaps, was my anger, not what I thought then to be righteous anger.

What that little group had in common was me. Now, with our greater understanding they smiled at me. How could they?  But they did. We met and we chatted as friends. I don’t know their destination but they are on their way, as I am on mine.

These feelings can linger and brew their own malign results as we absorb them into our unconscious. Perhaps they did in my family. How deep is the meaning of  the warning that we should not judge, lest we be judged.

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