Confused, maddened, my saddened heart adrift; I rise from my desk, lace on cracked dried-mud boots and reach for leads from the metal peg. Canine ears eagerly prick, baskets are noisily, readily left, and we’re out.
Muddled, foggy thoughts, dispiriting concerns accompany each muddy step of mine on the boggy outward path, we’re travelling against the flow of the small beck, but I know where we’re bound. Two miles out, over a thousand feet high, we reach the raised mound and now I turn my face back North. Black dog stops, sinks to the ground, white dog stands, nonplussed.
From this vantage point I am again struck by how well the Norse founders had positioned the hamlet we have left behind. Then so completely hidden and adequately sheltered in the landscape’s folds, well served by the clear essential liquid running north from this unique, natural watershed, it was the perfect spot.
Now it is given away, betrayed by Victorian monstrosities, swollen cankers clinging to its extremities. These further conspire with later, soulless ‘modern’ additions/conversions well imitating sore thumbs, to bleed all integrity from the heart and core of their now disfigured host; eviscerated, its entrails sprawl across the land. These ‘builders’ destroy the very thing, the very vibe they are drawn to, without remorse or thought.
Kestrel gliding silently into my eye line, hovers, scans and moves on with a subtle dip of one darker tipped russet wing, she has much ground to cover to make a living nowadays. (Did you manage to raise those chicks? I so wish I could assist, help with your quest.) I look across the thwaite, imagine the once abundant, now absent, thorn and gorse, the rich bountiful scrub from which it was cut, the source, the unbroken ground, from where it drew its richness. There’s much less sustained here now; sad dark slubs extend across the range, fast eroding peat hags mourning the past, describing the future. I can see where the lush wild woods once clothed the valley floor, all gone, no ash, no birch, no small-leaved lime. Now only ponderous dark green pockets of exotic, alien tree species exploit, pollute and strip the earth’s recyclable, but not endless, riches. I imagine a re-wilded scene, contemplate how the now barren fells could be populated; the grey partridge, deer and beaver, the white-clawed crayfish, harrier and lynx, the water vole, lark and badger all playing their role, each part necessary, completing the cycle as it once was, how I understand it was intended to be.
Fresh scat at my feet indicate some indigenous hang on and I am not the only one to visit this spot, my heart catches and tumbles as I wonder if he survived the continued speciocidal trawl just two days before. The pointless blood ritual we were unable to thwart, too few good people here. Black dog stirs as white dog’s eyes search my face; his wet tongue takes advantage of my arm with the rolled-up sleeve. I’m unsure if this is to console me, or is it comforting confirmation that he knows his wild cousin still runs free and alive across these fells today. Black dog throws a jealous glance, her sophisticated brain will not condone such sloppy thinking for long, and I ought to remember my quest.
I reach down striving to re-connect with the energy in the earth, there is a spirit I know buried here, I remember, a force distilled over thousands of years the product of a million aeons, is it still? Involuntarily I drop my head low and my eyes pick out, light on, a ladybird, bright vermillion against the fading blue moor grass. I marvel, even the strong flying swallows evident in their tens just yesterday are absent in this brisk westerly. (Can I be part of your confident quest, up here, where are you going?)
Green Bell and Harter Fell loom massively on either side but do not disturb me, they are friendly, solid, timeless old, but even they will change. Once master, geological time is being usurped by greedy men, maiming, tainting all forever, even the bedrock for ephemeral dirty gold. Grazing sheep, limp lame, look up mid chew to reassure themselves we at least are benign, a small temporary comfort for them in their often tortured, entrapped lives, living at the whim of slave owners, trapped in the callous food machine the capitalist ring masters direct with so much evil waste.
Focus utterly refracted; my heart free falls – endless abyss – is this it.
My hip aches, my neck straightens; the sun, now directly south, warms my back considerably, but we are a full eight days past the Autumn equinox! I stand, a butterfly alights on my hand soaking up vital solar rays. (Can I aid in your quest? please take salt from my skin.) A red admiral so brilliant it must be third generation, so beautiful it resolves all hesitations. Surrounded by this re-found, deeply ancient, insistent energy, inspiration floods my head. Black dog bursts from my side, circles and drops behind a clump of frayed reeds. White dog stands expectantly and with a different, refreshed clarity I eye anew the distant small curl of smoke.