The mountains

hid us well on our flight those first few days and nights. We were on our way east, following the road I knew would lead us to the circus people. If we could pick them up somewhere along their route in Central Europe, we would then be able to travel with them all the way to the Steppes of Asia.

Bunked up in the van’s cab with six boys surrounding me each night, I started to dream of babies; all newborn, some with burning hollowed eyes, some made entirely from wood, others with wet fur – most abandoned, helpless, mewling with hunger. I knew what these dreams meant but I was determined not to let them affect my resolve to continue, no matter what. Besides, with every mile we travelled, I could feel the draw of the circus people getting stronger; their mystery, exotic perfume, strange costumes. I felt the hunger inside me and knew I would only be sated when I caught a glimpse of their troupe making their rambling way into the dark forests of Old Europe.

But even so, at night, the doubts would come; I had in my care seven blond and blue-eyed boys, all intent on just being boys; running wild, climbing trees, playing cowboys and indians and yet I was dragging them half way across the world to fulfil my own crazy dreams. In those darkest hours, I couldn’t pretend that the work we were about to do would not be strenuous for them all, as every single one of them would have to earn their keep under the Big Top in whatever way they could.

At times like these, I had started to ask for help from the One who had Hidden Himself. Show me a sign, just a little sign that everything is going to be okay, I would whisper.

He never failed me. Two years ago when he left us, I asked him to contact me from the Place He Had Gone. Having been ill for many, many years with a sickness that had reduced him to nothing, I had forgotten about his energy and lust for life, which he proceeded to show me in full force. That particular night, I felt the earth trembling from somewhere deep, deep down, rolling on and on for the longest time. I myself, shook with fear. I brushed it off as a random event however, not connecting it to the request I had made of him until the next morning, when I walked into the living room and saw that the movement of the earth below had shaken a framed photo off the mantlepiece and it was lying smashed on the floor. It was the only picture of me and him I had in the house; a snapshot our mother had taken twenty years previously. Nothing else had been touched.

Then again, on the night that I finished and sent off my final manuscript of a poetry collection I had written about his final days with us, he sent another tremor. I imagined him dancing in pleasure somewhere underneath me and smiled.

And now I was asking for him again, feeling those fears resurface; scared I would have to continue on this journey alone, without him. Maybe he had decided this time however, he would not answer and all my dark and anxious whispering was pointless. I turned over to settle into the neck of my youngest son, warm and wrapped up in his deep dreaming and tried to sleep.

But I didn’t have long to wait for a reply; lying awake the next night, the second of the New Year, watching the ice glistening across the car park we had stopped in, somewhere near the Austrian border – from under the great mountains that surrounded us came a small rumbling as rock jarred against rock somewhere down below. Within that call and response our brief Otherworldly conversation continued. My heart fluttered and flew renewed.