from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Monday, 11 February 2013

remade by the play of season and weather

I always forget how stunning, how dramatic, Dartmoor is in the winter – a season that one would think drab. There's something about the moor and the time of year and its weather that bring out the best in each other, like a good working relationship. The ochre grasses, the deep sootblack of the peat, the pronouncement of the rocky tors, the ruffled pools, the shining strips of leats and waterfalls on the hillsides, the last of the fox-red bracken, the toning ponies, and the sage-green rushes – all of them uncorralled, a kind of stream of consciousness that resists paragraphs and full stops.

I'm kicking myself for forgetting – again – my camera for the play of light and cloud - always so much more interesting than straight sunshine.

I'm thinking about the many times I've made this journey in the 30 years I've lived in the vicinity of this peat-and-granite country with its wild miles, its legends, its stone rows and circles and cairns and kistvaens and hut circles from the Bronze Age, and some earlier; its bogs that can swallow you whole.

I'm listening to poems about snow on the car radio; so longing to hear Frost's 'Stopping by Woods' or Louis MacNeice's 'Snow' – both would suit this afternoon, even though here in the southwest it's a gentle day, unlike in parts of the rest of the country.
I'm thinking, too, about how it is to get older, and how little things like a rare Sunday lunch with my sister and daughter and failing father, followed by a stroll down by the rising tide of the creek with its translucency of rainbow in the February mizzle and its single high-stepping egret can mean so much – partly because they mean so much to my once-solitary and nonconformist dad now that my mum has died.

I come up over the rise with Hameldown away over yonder, and the fat-bellied sulphur-yellow clouds are pouring shadow on its flanks, and down across Laughter Tor. The little road ahead of me, shower-slicked, snakes switchback into the distance past North Hessary. I think that long ridge I've never known the name of must be Royal Hill; or perhaps its Down Ridge.

I've come up Long Ash Hill, and passed the megalithic rows of Merrivale with its cargo of memories, present and ancestral, marked in the granite uprights. On the quarter dates, four times a year, I'm in the habit of spending what one might call ceremonial time here with writers who, like me, are in love with the conjoining of land, words, silence. These stones have been sitting there for at least three and a half thousand years, maybe more – storing, since they were erected, who knows what of our thoughts and feelings, hopes and fears in the piezoelectric quartz, used of course as this crystal is for receiving and transmitting (think radios).

The sky beyond the last hill is a strip of torn paper, jonquil-white, down which rain-smeared tufts of cloud trail. What is it about the horizon, a non-place, so soon replaced with another and another, and yet which so calls to us? It's I guess something to do with the unknown, the not-as-yet revealed – and it's about time and possibility, change, as well as space (as I know very well what physically occupies the space over each horizon that I'll encounter on this drive). Too easy, perhaps, to say it's about the possibility of losing oneself, being newmade, finding something different, somehow... But of course each view is new, is itself remade by the play of season and weather, and by what I bring myself each time, too.

Right now I could drive forever, even into those clouds, and keep on driving.

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