As far as I am concerned, the only thing that can be achieved, when both my mind and body are suffused with deep, thick, viscous torment (echoed by repeated, random interference in both ears: stereophonic sussurations of spite…) – as I have stated so many times before – is walking. Apart from summoning lurking asthma, I know there is little worse I can subject my aching frame to. Plus, of course, my depression will ease, the further my journey. And on a morning like this – clear skies and concomitant summer balm; goldfinch twinkling in the hedges; chaffinch in the fletching oaks; buzzard and skylark floating above; sheep lazily grazing (heavy in their winter coats); and cattle uniformly resting in the shallow corrugations of ancient fields – what else am I to do? It is too generous a day to be shackled by sheets and shocking stair-rods of pain.
The first mile is hard: as if battling through stacked mattresses. But, reaching the sown fields, resistance fades, and my limbs begin to move with supernatural ease. Through my second gate, the path flowing beneath me, last week’s fresh cowpats have been grilled by the new heat, drilled by flies; but fudged treachery lies beneath the further stampede of hoof-prints, incised as the cattle migrated to new pasture. Despite the surface-split soil, moisture lurks. I wonder for how long.
The dying Trimphone of rooks polices the woodline beyond Old Lodge Farm; woodpigeon preternaturally silent in its cool, gloaming depths. I halt – reaching for both my thin fleece and the inhaler held within. The welcome, welcoming breeze is stronger here: the refrigeration of trees explicit in its freshness. I inhale deeply; and begin to plough slowly up the climbing, churned, bog-smashed bridleway – sharp muntjac prints clear in the unfocused muddle of horse, canine and human – the change of climate beckoning me on; the sweat of my skin wick’d away, refreshed. I therefore reach my halfway repose – a bottom-friendly, clean-cut stump – bright and breathful.
As I surmised, my mood has increased with each contour claimed: my mind now blanked in physical hurt alone. Fewer bird-calls, here; only the green noise of air and leaf constant. And yet even this must gather its breath from time to time… – and I see long hairpin dynamics graved between staves of branch and twig: my tinnitus finally quelled by sweet stochastic music that man can never match.
I have been taught – winter rheum still clearing my stiffened legs and lungs – my body’s inclination towards such challenges: and it grows easier each time I rehearse my achievement. No wonder the world around me sings!
Emboldened by scatterlit bluebells, I reach the plateau with newfound ease (delighted with my resultant pulse and oxygen saturation). Here, the soil is baked with startling sunlight – no need for jacket, now – although I utter a prayer for rain into the crescendoing, coruscating gusts. Beneath the stretched candy-cotton cirrus and cirrocumulus, flaked by high gales, I gather pace. The infinity of skyline renders me a mote upon Gaia’s cherished face; the scalping swallows more worthy of this place. Inches aloft the infant crops, they are not punished by the elemental air. This is their play- and feeding-ground, perfect for their gentle acrobatism.
Brunchfast downed, and bootlaces tightened, I head into the breeze. Three gates in succession – silent guardians of suspicious sheep – left unfastened. Someone else had come this way; someone careless and idle. All I could hear, though, was the sweet-treacle bubbling of larks, stirred by the passage of wind, scooped up by the bowl beyond the immeasurable flatness.
Now the air felt glutinous: solidifying below a ghostly glider’s glistening arms….
Suddenly, my left leg left me, learned rhythm deserting on the deceptive, slithery, custard-skinned descent between the loose trees. I paused; tried to erase its failure – but all it would do was drag, useless as unneeded baggage.
I stopped: making the split branch of a stricken, struck tree, creaking like a dilatory woodpecker, my resting place: a small, uniformly matt-lime beetle exploring my outstretched hand. Spreading its tiny silken wings, clear as water, it fell into the breeze, before merging to earth with the waving grass.
One more attempt, I thought. (Although I had no plan in mind if my memory of movement would not come.) The ridge-and-furrow – green-pilled corduroy – was no place for such. But once through the following gate, where the hill’s stoop palmed flat, the spark caught flame. I had tried too hard, it seemed. Distraction, and an emptied consciousness, the only lights required to illuminate my recall. I strode on.
(At the gate, my right thigh had been gently nudged from behind. That soft push was the pale nose at the tip of an arrow of curious calves and mothers, which had silently streamed behind me. At first, they would not budge. Stentorian cries of “mush, mush” eventually backed them from me. Once through, though, they clustered once more: their sad faces outlined by the metal bars. Soon, as I left them behind, a smattering of beckoning, mournful moos. But, then, silence: only chiffchaffs and finches decorating the warming wind.)
The sky was now ice-blue, lined with a bright, high mist: the increasing, punctuating sun captured in ribbons of cow-parsley, the eager visages of buttercup and late dandelion.
Sat in the churchyard, the slow bells marked four hours since my last hearing. My limbs ached only with the joy of exercise. And so I wandered home, supported by the encouragement of unseen birds.
Unusually, I wrote this ‘on the huff’ – instead of gathering my thoughts, images, false remembrances, and struggled synonyms, together, at home. I hope my writing therefore reflects the rhythm of both my boots, and the world beneath and above them.