It was good to be surprised by silence, the absence of the backing buzz that contaminates so much our lives. It was good to stride on, followed by nothing but the sound of my own steps. In this place it is hard not to be filled up with the beauty, to get a little lost in the lines of sky and hill.
The path I took was one I had inherited, and shared with my dad until he was no longer well enough to walk. Memories of his own tales of lone tramping meant that his twenty-something self, the him that I’d never known, was also somehow striding along beside me. Here on the hill there was no place to escape dad’s absence and his presences, the shadows of him that cloud-drift around me, and that was actually kind of okay.
Somehow that got me thinking about some semantic theory half forgotten from my long ago degree – that we understand things by comparison, by our sense of what they are not. In a sense, we see a thing and know it by its shadow.
This particular day was certainly heavy with all it was not, the silences present by the absences, the empty space beside me and also the other places I might be. Having moved a lot, I always seem to carry a few ‘might have been’s in my pocket, sights and sounds from the shades of myself that have shaken off and still walk down other streets.
Today my thoughts were filled with those other places. After watching news of rioting in the morning, London had wriggled inside me and I roamed the hills grieving for it but also feeling grateful for this place of peace. When I remember the jostles and bumps, the cold hard corners of city life, these greens seem even gentler on my eyes, the ground softer beneath my feet.
I walked in beside futures as well as pasts. Soon I will be leaving – if everything works out I may be Uganda next week and this beauty is all the brighter because I know it may not be mine for long. It will be replaced with other sights, harsher light, bolder skies. My day was just a little more beautiful because I am leaving it behind.
It occurred to me that we are all always leaving – we just don’t know quite when, which moment, which glance will be our last.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could hold that knowledge in our hearts? Let the beauty of now sink deeply into us, knowing it is all the more meaningful in the face of its opposite, its shadow, the knowledge that one day it will not be?
I’m going to try to keep that thought inside me somewhere… I think I need a cork board!