I had been searching for quiet. The hills are a gift. I puffed up the muddy paths. The hills were covered in rust bracken, wet brown leaves, rabbit nibbled grass, damp moss…
Above St. Ann’s Well the fog thickened. I sat on a wooden bench, next to the path at the ridge, and looked out east. The fog drifted, caught by slow winds. It curled into new shapes. It thickened, and thinned, but it didn’t clear. A few bare trees emerged from the mist; charcoal marks on a grey page.
I had been searching for peace. I had imagined some retreat like space over the Christmas break, perhaps between Christmas and the New Year. Christmas eve, Christmas day and Boxing day, we were with family. There were some wonderful moments: our three year nice dancing to Sia’s Chandelier; our five year old niece directing us to play stick-in-the-mud in the park, as it started to rain on Christmas day; playing with the vintage horse racing game that my brother-in-law’s father-in-law remembered playing in his own childhood. There were some fraught moments too, as too tired adults and children began to unravel at the edges.
In between Christmas and New Year we had one day without any appointments. Then, on the morning of that day, a text message: our teacher was coming a day early, he’d be with us for dinner. A pleasure, but I worried about conversations straying into what I think of as work. They did, which one the one hand was useful, and on the other asked me to let go of my expectations of the day.
On New Years Eve, I worked for a couple of hours in the morning. It was the first time I had been in my office for days. The plants needed watering, and the pile of letters I had been putting off dealing with asked for my attention. I moved the letters out of sight before turning my computer on.
In the afternoon I tried retreating in to the bedroom with my novel and a cup of tea. The lava lamp I bought for Satya slowly came to life, the pink wax stretching and breaking apart in the purple water. I tuned my phone and Bluetooth speaker (a Christmas present) into a jazz radio station, and settled into reading. Everything in the bedroom is a reflection of what I already know, it is comfortable and comforting, but it doesn’t open me up to something more spacious.
The hills are a gift. I got out of bed, and went walking.
On the bench on the ridge my mind finally settled down. I looked into the mist. A group of teenagers walked by. One of them snuck a look at me. I was dressed all in red, half smiling at nothing.
I settled into contentment for a while, and then I started grasping after it. I should get up early everyday and come up here, I thought, whilst knowing that I wouldn’t.
On the way down I took the steepest path. I passed an old man using two walking sticks. “Good afternoon”, he said, his forehead beaded with sweat, beneath waves of white hair.
Photo by Mark Seton