Tuesday, 12 July 2011
Old Markers and Overgrowth
These summer days are falling like peony petals. I only glimpsed a dropping movement from the corner of my eye, and later I found a whole pile of days lying there, one on top of another.
I spent a morning curled up near the trunks of that rowan tree, which still stands guarding the entrance to an old croft where the wind and hours have played a long time between the crumbling cottage walls.
These days some passing cows sheltering from the rain are the only ones to enjoy the tree's protection from witches and fires and getting lost.
And I was only hiding under the leaves from the sunshine, looking out over the start of the highlands, watching the shadows of clouds passing, green hills turning blue.
And growing one more thistle to add to the forest of them that stand in the old field.
A friend showed me the old road to Edinburgh, where kings and armies passed long ago. It was just a bit of grass going indistinctly uphill through the broom, overlooking the rowan and the cottage. The sort of place where one might just chance to walk now.
The plein air painters set up their easels, balanced blocks of water colour paper on their knees, drank flasks of coffee and tea. I set down my things and went strolling the crest of a hill, found a forest of ferns, sat under the scotch pines.
And then the clouds began to grow weary of rushing past, dragging their shadows through the grasses behind them. They sat on the hills and breathed their cold, misty breath on our bared arms and sang crisp breezes across the valleys.
Jackets came out of bags, tubes of paint went into them. The last of the strawberries were divided, and the easels were folded away. Packs on our backs, we wound down the old Edinburgh road, then down the overgrown farm track, with two rocky paths through the grass for wheels, and between them a wide lane of waist-high grass. Tiny birds passed low over crop fields and halted on stone walls.
And as we journeyed home, we found the road was marked with strange and lovely sights: earth houses, and Pictish stones with lines that weaved themselves into crosses, horses, marching feet, crescents and combs.
And since then there have been many days to sit in a window and watch the raindrops trace long patterns down the glass, writing out maps of the wonders hidden so calmly in the hills, not so far and not so near home.