Halfway through the book, I came across a passage that brought me to a stop. I read it over and over, and bent the page corner, and came back to it again. Nuala would visit her boyfriend's home on weekends. After a work week, she'd take the train north out of London, and get off at a quiet platform in a village. He would step out of the little pub to meet her.
We'd buy our take-away bottles and head off. We went home by a pathway along the edge of the fields, then by the side of a thick beech wood, and then we ducked into the wood and went across the soft forest floor, parting the boughs until we came out in a clearing in the middle of the wood, and there, in a patch of grass, like a thing of magic, stood the cottage.
Every season was beautiful. In the spring there was a sea of bluebells under the sharp sweet green of the new beech leaves. In summer the golden cubes of straw glowed in the stubble fields and the woods were blackish-green. In autumn, the searchlights of ferris-wheel havesters played and replayed on the blank wall of the trees as they whirled and thumped up and down the big fields, chewing up whole pea plants and spitting the mulch out behind. Winter was the most wonderful of all. First there was a season when the leaves fell so thickly in the wood that there was silence. The mist rolled up from the estuary and the bare twigs of the trees were covered in a cold sweat. Then it would freeze, and when we came out of the pub and started along the path to home we'd be breaking the skin of ice that had begun to form on the puddles when it got dark. We'd turn into the skeletal woods. And there, in its little clearing crisp with frost, would be our cottage, the light glowing from the warm kitchen, the dinner ready in the stove. We had no bathroom, no television, no telephone. We had everything.
Nuala shares that although the relationship with this man was at times one of disagreement, that the year that they shared in this cottage was a year "of great happiness". That rings true to me. A house like this one sends peace deep into your bones. It's solidly rooted in a place of beauty, and a profound sense of rest settles over you, grounds you, makes you unshakeable.
This passage paints a clear picture for me. I don't want to include a photograph to interfere with your mental image. All I know is I believe the world would be a better place if we humans had safe, warm bungalows to return to at night, with the feeling of security that this can not be taken from me. Put that cottage deep in a beech forest. "We had everything." This is contentment, this is peace.