Time is a curious thing. A day is a book we open, then close, bright and vivid when the pages feel the air, dim and distant when they touch. A bubble of experience, a complete world when we’re in it, drifts away in the wind, never recaptured. We take photos, a desperate grab to keep our memories intact; but you can’t catch a bubble. Best not to try?
I thought I saw something,
deep in the green.
My heart is pounding –
I don’t know why.
Nothing to fear, here, surely;
it’s a gentle place;
but it’s such a very deep place.
Suddenly I fear I don’t belong here,
like it’s not my world.
The trees look sharp and over-real,
like in a mirror,
a reflection in water.
I feel insubstantial.
My feet make no prints in the peat.
For a moment I hang there, a breath stilled in my throat.
Then I draw that breath,
and walk on.
I can still smell the sea, but it’s incongruous here, in the green twilight. Or maybe not – I could imagine myself under the sea here, drifting through the twisted roots of a kelp bed, the light filtering down through fathoms of green water. The arching ferns would be the fronds of some delicate creature, combing the water for food; the pillowy moss, beds of sponges inhabited by shy brown fish.
The path descends, the trees grow taller, and I feel more and more that I am diving deep into another world, close to our own, close enough to touch, but as separate as the far side of the mirror. My neck prickles, but I keep going.
The branches close over my head, replacing clear sky with a pattern of fragments. The wind still penetrates, but it’s slowed and warmed, sweetened by the shade and the scent of the ferns. The sun still feels bright in here, the shade doesn’t hide it, but accentuates it, and the fragments of brightness seem brighter by contrast. It’s like being in a birdcage, ornamented with fluttering leaves.
Further in, the light fails further, though sparks of sun still dance on the trunks. The roots of the trees grip deep into the peat and the path cuts a gully between them. The trees are barely ten feet tall. I have to stoop under their branches, following the path onwards into the deepening shade
We are surrounded
by gold and silver;
leaves woven of air and sunlight,
intricate knotwork of silver twigs.
Scarcity is a tale I tell
to excuse myself.
The world is rich
and hoarded with treasure,
there for the taking.
The clouds have gone completely and the sky is deep blue above a haze. Everything is fresh, but soft, and I feel like I’m on an island in an empty sea of blue.
But then I see something, off to the left. The turf slopes away there, dropping down to a hollow, and above its edge I can see branches. A little wood of twisted oaks, bark worn silver by wind and sun, and leading into it, a path, like a channel in the peat, studded with smooth white stones. The branches arch over it, and inside the light is warm and green.
I pause for a moment, soft wind in my hair. Then I start down the path, drawn by the thrill of woods and caves and holes unexplored.
The soft sky, charcoal-scented, green-scented, perfumed with newness and soft memories of the past
Draws near us
Draws round us
The soft water, painted with stolen colours from the world above
Flows under us
Flows round us
Flows through us
The soft world wraps round us
And folds us in light.
I wander out across the clifftop, the clouds now melting into curls of steam, the rough grass glowing in the sun. I can see the Road below me, curling round the bases of the cliffs. It smiles at me, not hurrying or harrying. It knows I will find my way back in time.
As the last of the cloud scoots over the edge and vanishes, I see the sheep again. They are still now, some lying, some standing, basking in the warmth. A ewe with two lambs eyes me, her strange eyes unreadable in her mottled face. The lambs’ tails are wagging as they suckle, their neat new fleeces as white as the clouds. I’m so busy watching them I don’t notice a pit opening in front of my feet, and I nearly fall, stopping barely in time.
It’s round, rimmed with grass. At first I think it’s just a hollow in the rock, but then I see stones, undressed but neatly laid, lining its walls. The floor is humped and mounded and covered with grass. A sheep-pen, perhaps? An ancient sheep-pen, buried in the earth. But then I notice a stone-walled box in the corner, a stone shelf beside it. And in the centre, part-covered by a mount of grassy earth, a few flagstones, and the corner of a shallow pit, carefully lined. A bed. A table. A fireplace. Someone lived here, countless lost years ago. Hundreds? Thousands? I wonder if there were sheep then, or goats. Perhaps a shepherd lived here, minding his flock on the high pasture. The grassy mounds, perhaps the remains of the roof, carefully built and long since fallen.
I wonder if the view has changed. If the seas have risen, or fallen. If the clifftop was bare as it is now, or if this hut was in a forest. I wonder if the Road passed below, as it does today. Easily formed and changeable, that’s how roads and paths appear, but all the same, they can be ancient, older than we can possibly know. All it takes is for feet to be walking, following that road, year by year, generation by generation, and though history is lost and tales are forgotten, the Road goes on.
I sit in the grassy house for a while, enjoying a respite from the wind, and thinking of its builder. Sitting in someone’s home can bring you close, though many lost years may lie between.
Spring suddenly kindles, from nowhere, from the bitter Northerly wind. Bright sparks of daffodils spring up and blaze, green flames spurt from every twig, and the warmth of life, it seems, forces the year to turn. The wind revolves, warmth rolls from the South, the sky is white in the West and winter is over, even as the snow still lingers on the hills. The grass is growing. The air is moving. Everything is changing.
Not one rock.
A ring of rocks.
Looming and vanishing through the sweeping cloud.
In the centre, the world grows briefly still. The sun shafts down.Everything shines.
dance across the open ring, wiggling absurdly, their fleeces wet with dew.
They’re everywhere, bleating, and then they’re gone.
And they leave me laughing.