Fog drops suddenly. The sky pale blue on one side, opaque white on the other. The trees away, out there, separated by time, not shrouded, cloaked or hidden. Two dimensions within a hundred metres of each other. Different times across the valley. The gulls are effortless time travellers. In this split sky. This morning. Time ticks. A whistle. A sigh of what? Time gone? Time to be? Time that is and stands still. That pale blue, like eyes from the past. My past. That is what was. Swirls of milk in a bucket of water. Paint drops to the bottom more quickly. The valley is old, and the top of the hills serrated by the wind. Trees in the desert. Sand up to their waists. Quicksand on the heath.
Yesterday, the sun shone into my office all afternoon. Low, balancing on the narrow fence between the gardens. It warmed me more than the heater on the wall could. Life thrashed around in the square wooden cell I live and work in. The door jammed shut, and no voices to distract me. In here, I could touch the rays as they fell into my skin.
In the morning, I walked amongst the trees, ignoring my pavement route for the loneliness of the trails where rebels hid out almost 500 years ago. In that time beyond the fog. The sun blared behind the trees, touched me when I came out of the shadows, blinded me when I walked between reflections. Up and down the hills, coat undone, no gloves, no scarf. The air on my throat cool and soft. I lost myself.
A giggle. A laugh. A woman, barefooted, walking along the path with her shoes in one hand. She laughed again when she passed me on her way down the hill to the stagnant pond by the crack in the path, a broken branch its only monster, stretched out in the water like an immobile supple goddess, like a stiffening snake just after death, and the sunlight skidding off the glassy surface. There are rhymes when eyes don’t meet, when heads don’t turn, when the colour of hair is forgotten, and the only way is up and on, and not down the same path she followed. Did her bare feet connect her to nature more than my boots could?
This route is shorter, but more peaceful. The whole of this county was covered by trees when the rebels camped here. No houses, no roads, for miles and miles. Mousehold Heath is a small corner of a defeated land now, hemmed in by roads and noise and brick, and only in the occasional dark corner under the branches of some ancient leaves do the ghosts still manifest, freezing the shadows with their lost souls and their dark memories. You can feel them walk across the floor of the valley in these spaces where the sun never reaches, looking for the vanished springs and the lost deer, their search futile in an age they can’t understand.
All this and more, under the fog of a winter morning. The ghosts will not miss us. They will mourn the trees.
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