There was something magical in the air. The mingled scent of sea salt, of fresh rain, and of freshly fell vegetation. The local songbirds twittered in a crescendo of mourning for their home, as autumn beguiled the woods into early retirement.
Kenny Rogers had not been to the old family home in northern County Down for almost ten years. Yet, now returned, he felt a sudden onrush of familiarity and poignant nostalgia. He recalled many summers spent in this beautiful country, exploring the gentle slopes, wood, and thicket, from as far as the old Torr Road down to the rocky cliffs and pebbled seaside.
Kenny’s father had sold the place to an elderly couple from Ballycastle, shortly before he remarried and moved south to Monaghan. By then, Kenny was just finishing primary school and then went on to attend university in Jordanstown. Graduate school was to follow, where he was now enrolled in his second year.
Kenny was leading a new life now, happily pursuing what he thought to be his future: a successful career and starting a family. But something had begun to nag at him. Something from his past, insecurities as a child began to revisit the new Kenny in dreams and his thought life. He was become distracted. His class work and research for his thesis paper was suffering for it. And all he could think of was the old home in northern County Down.
There was only one solution Kenny could think of, so he planned a weekend visit to the place of his childhood. Early one Saturday morning he made the hour-long journey, a weepy autumn rainfall adding to his uncertainty and wondering.
He parked off the main road, at a side street that curved along until meeting with the plot where the old family home remained. Kenny paused outside the old home, feeling a tinge of longing at the sight. He was not interested in attracting the attention of the new owners, so he pressed into the woods.
Just as if he had never left, Kenny found that his legs knew the way to go—following the muddied path for a time, and then taking his own route through the vegetation. He traveled for almost half an hour before he came upon a gnarled oak tree that sparked a memory of his childhood.