No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river, and he is not the same man.

HERACLITUS (535-475 B.C.)




Mine is a country of the mind, and a river runs through it. The river is time and it runs in one direction only, as a river runs to the sea. It bears everything away: the living and the dead, the memories and the visions, the hopes, the dreams, the fears. It runs endlessly into eternity. It does not allow us to reverse its course.

The country of the mind remains forever hazed with light: shining in the past, recalled with a poignancy and yearning which is not nostalgia, not idealism, not homesickness, but something elusive and indefinable and, in a dark mood, unbearable. The Welsh call this hiraeth, a longing for the past, for what is gone, for those who shared that past who have been lost with it. It is the place from which we came, and to which we can never return.

“Will you ever go back?” people say to me. They expected me to go back when I was widowed. Maybe they expect me to go back now, as Canada has become the refuge of choice for two unhappy young royals. It may work for them. I doubt it; but life and maturity have conferred on me a darker wisdom, and I don’t think I can go home again. What waits for me there? Who waits for me? What is there for me now?

In the country of my mind we are all still together: younger, untouched by illness and mortality. There were dreams and there was hope, and there was no darkness and no disillusionment. We were fearless. We had each other, and the world was ours.

I am not that young woman who left Canada more than thirty years ago. Life has changed me, broken me, put me back together. The river has borne me many miles from my home. The country of the mind lies like an illusion on the horizon: drifting, unattainable: mirage and memory: known once, inhabited once, never again to be entered.

The river runs and bears us on, and time exiles us all.