It is often said that life is a journey. But if that is so- just where are we going? What is the metaphor behind this statement? Of course we all have to go places in everyday life- that is not what I’m talking about. Life itself- a journey. Like all journeys it suggests there is a beginning and an end- to someplace from someplace. When we die does the journey end?
If one is immortal as I am, then the journey is a never ending one. Perhaps that is neither here nor there, but it has gotten me thinking of what this could mean for one such as I. Can a mortal’s journey be completed as mine never can be?
Is life then death the beginning and the completion of the journey, or are one’s life experiences, desires, hopes and dreams the real journey? I have seen that many peoples’ lives come to an end with the sense of not having completed what they wished to complete- there was not the opportunity perhaps, or never the time.
Time is something that passes for all of us, yes even I, although I have experienced it in very strange ways- I have gone forwards and back in time many times and found that whilst some things were very different, some things were very much the same.
Without exception, everyone I met in every time I found myself in was in some way a reflection of the time they were inhabiting. I am one example of this. Born in the 18th century, no matter how much I tried to fit into the time I was currently inhabiting, I was still of my own time- the late 18th century.
It always felt strange to me during my time travelling with Julia to refer to the late 1960s or early 1970s as going back to “my time” or “our time.” Strange in two ways- firstly, my time was the late 18th century, and secondly we were actually going forward in time ( from 1897 or 1840 and sideways too if you wish to consider 1970 parallel time ). Oh and there was one time when we actually did go “back” to our own time- from 1995. But usually we were going forwards, but Julia and I always referred to “going back” to our own time!
In some ways I was an orphan of time- no longer living or existing in my own time, except when I briefly went back to 1796 to help Vicki and Peter Bradford ( and also a second time when I followed Kitty Soames to 1796 from 1897). Julia was very afraid for me when I willed myself back there as there was a real risk of myself becoming trapped there. It is quite odd to think of oneself as trapped in a time that they were born in. But fate had brought me to the twentieth century, and despite the trouble that followed me there ( some of it of my own making I admit) it seemed that this was where I belonged. It turned out that the modern Collins family needed me to protect them against many evils and threats to their happiness and safety, so awakening in this new century I became part of their lives and time and the past where I was from, began to seem further and further away.
Yet, the past still drew me back- to the nineteenth century- a time I most definitely did not feel I belonged in. The same thing happened to Quentin- of this century, he too became immortal due to the portrait painted of him by the artist Tate and one day he turned up in Collinsport in 1970, although he took some time to remember who he was. Once he did, he seemed to seamlessly fit into the twentieth century in a way I never quite managed to do. I don’t quite know how or why he did so- perhaps he wasn’t that fond of the nineteenth century and enjoyed modern life and all the new things that could be found there, and the greater freedoms of this time.
He was never “old fashioned” in the way that I am. Vicki seemed to like this about me however, and I wish that I’d been able to share with her who I really was and my experiences of the past, the present and how they differed and yet in some ways were similar. People still yearned to be anywhere than where they were, or who they were, wished they could change their circumstances, felt their dreams slipping away from them until they felt nothing but hopelessness. The Quentin Collins I met in 1840 even built a staircase that he hoped would take him into another time where hoped he’d be happier and have a different life. He never imagined that it would be used against him ( in the accusations of witchcraft) and that only I, Julia and Professor Stokes would be the ones to walk up and down it into the past and then the future. In that way the staircase could be said to be a success for it worked as Quentin planned it to.
But Vicki- oh Vicki…she belonged in 1968, yet she followed Peter Bradford back to his time. I could not stop it. She had already been back to the 18th century and nearly lost her life- I simply could not understand why she wanted to go back to such danger. Yes, I know she loved Bradford, but their fate was not a happy one, just as mine and Josette’s never was, and much as I tried to change that, it proved impossible.
Josette even tried herself by pulling her future self in the body of Kitty Soames back to 1796 and still Josette died young. The tragedy of that haunted me greatly. Poor Kitty suffered the confusion of her identity and time took her life prematurely from the 1897- the time she belonged in. I see now, it was wrong of me to have tried to get her to remember who she had been, but Josette’s spirit lived in her and was calling to both myself and Kitty, longing for a second chance at life- and my love. Our love. I hoped that I could bring Josette back or forward if you like, to 1897, and then on to 1969 where we could at last be together. But those hideous Leviathans captured me in some strange place between time and Josette was lost to me, in the past.
Of a night in the Old House when Willie had gone to bed, I sometimes would sit on her bed looking at her portrait and imagine how she’d be in the twentieth century- would she feel as I felt? Someone out of time? Or would she have been like Quentin and eased into this new century eagerly? I often think that my out of place feelings were due to Josette not being with me, for she was lost in the mists of time to me, but then Quentin had lost everyone he knew too, and didn’t seem to feel as lost as I often felt.
Before my life took an unfortunate turn, I had never given much thought to the time I lived in- it just was part of who I was- I never gave much thought to the future, what another century might be like- only my own future with Josette was in my thoughts, and the family we hoped to raise. The journey we planned together, was the same as everyone else’s that we knew- marriage, children, growing old together. Instead, Josette’s was cut short and mine altered into something I could never have imagined in my worst nightmares. Yet, here I still am – having experienced travels across two centuries and time bands, hating and loving along the way, meeting people and losing people along the way.
All these are reflected in who I am, are part of who I am. My experiences, whilst now are past, belong in the past, still live inside of me. This is true of all of us- who we meet, where we go, what we do- they exist in our minds, in our hearts and our souls. We might not be able to forget them, but giving them that acknowledgement can I have found, bring us to if not quite peace, but a feeling of acceptance.
Regrets, we are often told, should be let go of, and this is often a good thing to do, but some regrets allow us to realise where we went wrong, did wrong and vow never to make those mistakes again. The destination is important, but also the journey to that destination- how we get there is equally so. Life, if we let it, is also a lesson. I have had many lessons, so forgive me if this sounds like I am giving whoever reads this a lesson. All of us, myself included are students in life. It took one little girl to remind me of that in 1967- a very simple lesson- be good, try to be good. I had almost forgotten that. I had taught her that, then she was teaching me- in her innocence and simple beauty I hung my head in shame and regret, my eyes filling with tears as she left me- her own eyes full of sorrow for what I had become. My journey to finding my goodness again was still far away.