Settling

This is a place of rowdy winds and gaping skies.  There are few trees on these scoured hills so the wind howls and moans unfettered across the landscape.  The sails of wind turbines peek over a nearby hill, spinning in the current.  It is a place where footpaths appear to lead to the sky.  A place of cloud-shadow, where giants throw their shades on the hills like cast off skins.  When it rains, the sky glowers gunmetal and the hills fade into a blurred mist.  In the darkness, the moon is a huge orange globe.

What are the spirits of this place? A brooding horse, forged from horseshoes, guards the threshold and the horses in the fields are aloof, showing no interest in passers by.  Blackbirds lurk in the hedge, furtive with unseen fluttering.  A quiet chirrup comes from something hidden in the long grass.  Sheep complain in the distance.  This seems a lonely place.  A place where the inhabitants are reluctant to reveal themselves.

It takes time to settle into a new landscape.  I had hoped that I would arrive and feel myself exhale into glorious isolation, away from the cares of the commonplace.  But I should have known better.   I’m unsettled, uncomfortable – not physically, but because I don’t yet fit.  My first night is haunted by sleeplessness.  I watch the moon become smaller, higher and brighter as it scales the sky and I long for dawn to come.

In my impatience to leave the world behind, I forgot that you must feel yourself into a place.  It isn’t about the prosaic dos and don’ts.  Those things are necessary, but they aren’t what’s important.  What’s important is to come to terms with the essence of a landscape.  We often assume our right of belonging.  We may dislike a place, but we tell ourselves that is the fault of the place, not us.  But there are places in which we don’t belong at all, and some that make us work hard for that belonging.  I will be here only a short time, but it is only after I open myself up to it and let it know my intentions that it will decide if I’m welcome or not.  I must meet it on its own terms to feel at home here.

Eventually, the land will begin to reveal itself to me.  To give a hint of insight into its secrets.  And it’s then, after a few unsettling days, that I discover this is a place of rainbows.  Huge rainbows at the bookends of the day, that spring vibrantly from the land and span its hills.  Thresholds of sorts, allowing a way in to the landscape.  I discover that this is also a place of swooping swallows and chattering songbirds – the whirr of feathers and bob of tails.  Where a robin serenades the dusk from a nearby willow and the bray of donkeys vibrates the morning.  It is a place where the sky is lit up by a billion stars and where the wind sings an elegy through gaps in drystone walls and across the hills.  This is not an easy landscape, but if I listen I will find my place in it.

103 thoughts on “Settling

  1. A wonderful reflection, Andrea. Here’s to rainbows!
    I rarely see them on the east coast or southeast… Then when I moved to New Mexico, the first day, as I was drinking in the energy of the place — I saw a rainbow. How could I think it was wise to leave? Wishing you a week filled with wonder. Hugs.

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  2. An evokative post with equally evocative images. Your words ring with truth inside of me. I often seek a deeper connection with the land, and to discover its mysteries in places where they seem hidden to me.

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  3. ‘Where the wind sings an elegy through gaps in drystone walls.’ The austere landscape you describe seems to bring out beautiful poetic writing. Thank you for this lovely ‘elegy’. No doubt the rainbow, the robin and the stars you mention are sent to cheer,

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  4. Andrea, what a brutally and beautifully honest description of this brooding landscape. I felt a little chillier just reading it. When we come to places like this, we wonder `how do people live here?’, but you’re right; we have to feel our way in. Well said. For me, those donkey ears were my invitation in. 😀

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  5. I always soak up your eloquent writing, Andrea. And this one really hits home, for I moved to a rural setting 16 years ago, and it took a full year of all the seasons to feel settled, welcomed. I don’t mean the people, I mean the mountain. It’s a fierce mountain with extreme weather, and it takes devotion and commitment to live here, and I wouldn’t trade it for anywhere in the world. This is what you write of, so beautifully, and I savored every word. When you make friends with the wildlife, notice them, acknowledge them–and it sounds like you have–the settling becomes easier.

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  6. Settling. Belonging to a place. Seeking the spirit of a place. Feeling at home or not at all. These are feelings so familiar to me, Andrea, that I relate 100 % to your gorgeous meaningfull post. Isn’t it strange that we feel sometimes immediately part of our natural surroundings while at other times it is the total opposite? I’ve always wondered about the vibes or spirits that make me feel at ease or uncomfortable.
    As always I admire your prose filled with sensory details and your search for a life well lived. I hope that you belong to this place for the time of your stay.

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  7. Are you on holiday or have you moved house, Andrea?
    The land speaks to us and we respond… I’ve learned I am most at home in deciduous forests and open, small farm-land. Other places leave me unsettled, like you mentioned.
    Love the donkey ears – that’s a great photo!

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  8. Beautifully crafted Andrea. You touch on an interesting concept that I now recognize but was never able to identify: feeling at (un)ease in a new environment. Thank you. From a more mundane point of view, I also recognize that if I travel by car to a new place for the day, it can sometimes take an hour before I “settle”, because my mind and spirit have been so busy with the cares of driving. If I travel by train, I arrive rested and at peace, and virtually immediately prepared to embrace my new surroundings.

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  9. First, the horse made of horseshoes is a marvelous creature. Your descriptions of gloom and darkness and not belonging create just that atmosphere. Discovering you are in a land of rainbows with birds singing felt like seeing a rainbow at the end of a stormy day. This is you writing at your best. Magnificent.

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  10. I enjoyed reading that so much … it was like a beautiful meditation, and I loved the photograph of the donkeys – well, their ears anyway. 🙂 “… if I listen, I will find my place in it.” I will remember that on my travels and everyday activities.

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  11. I felt chill and menace at the beginning of your post but once I saw the donkey ears I knew the landscape would start to grow on you. But there are places which seem to push us away, where true settling is impossible.

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  12. I love your lyrical descriptions and the way you link them to your feelings. I recognize these emotions. It can take a while to find our place when we visit somewhere new, especially on holiday when we are eager to find enjoyment and relaxation.

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  13. “In my impatience to leave the world behind, I forgot that you must feel yourself into a place.” Beautiful, Andrea. Place doesn’t align so much with our expectations of it, or, sometimes, our comfort. I’ve experienced that unsettling, too, when I’ve moved from one place to another whose ‘feel’ (and often, culture) is very different. Sensing and feeling into it, we can begin to come to know it. Thanks as ever for your beautiful musing and photos. xo Jamie

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  14. I enjoyed this post so much that after I read it, I had to proclaim my love for it out loud. Now my family, the dog, and the jackdaws outside my window know all about it!
    You write so beautifully, Andrea, and with such an original voice; so many surprises and gems within such well-chosen words and pictures. I adore the picture of the donkey ears.

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  15. I can relate to these feelings, Andrea. I feel most at home on open, windswept places like you describe so beautifully here but feel most uncomfortable when I visit enclosed places where I can’t see the wide skies. Your writing is as poetic as ever and your photographs illustrate it perfectly!

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  16. A poetically reflective post, Andrea…nature seems to be hunkering down under those ominous dark clouds…but as it clears, the rainbows appear and lighten the sky – and hopefully, your spirit will follow as it finds its connection to the place. Warmest wishes. xx❤️

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  17. Sometimes the beauty of a place is so beyond words that you just want to be a part of it. The good thing is if you try and you like the harmony you actually become a part of it as if you were never apart. So, enjoy your stay, Andrea. 🙂 Oh, and those ears are…just so invisible and shy. By any chance, are they waiting for you? BTW lovely pics. 🙂

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  18. There is always something special about ‘difficult landscapes’ and I think your description of “place of rowdy winds and gaping skies” is just the type of place that attracts me 🙂 Wonderful writing and photos Andrea!

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  19. Exquisite description and observation as always Andrea. How right that we feel we either ‘belong’ or we don’t and how we consider it is the place to blame, not ourselves. And I love you used ‘rowdy’, a good adjective not much seen or heard these days.

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  20. Gosh, this is a wise and beautiful piece, Andrea.
    You are so right about needing to find the right place, about waiting to see if we fit. But it is so wonderful when we do find the right place for ourselves.
    I suppose wherever you are, you have your writing to make sense of it all …

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  21. Like all your posts this got me thinking long and hard about my own relationship to place and in particular ancestral places and the complexity of that. I love ‘giants throws their shades on the hills like cast off skins’ Also ‘I must meet it on its own terms to feel at home here.’ I love that line. Both my parents came from Norfolk and I have a very difficult relationship with that place and your post got me thinking about why that was and I’m still thinking!

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  22. I’ve been to places where I feel I should be very settled and relaxed, but it takes me time to get there. When I lived on the farm in the 90’s people would say it was too remote and a bit scary being so far from ‘civilization’ but I loved it. When I moved to the city in 2000 I was just too close to everyone and everything and I couldn’t stand it and the same people would say I lived in a wonderful place so close to loads of people and amenities. I felt trapped, but learned to live with it after a while and then I moved back to the farm in 2012 and felt very separated again and unsure of the wide open spaces and isolation. I think it’s just a matter of adapting to the environment and learning to live as a part of it instead of it being a part of you. I’m pretty sure when you’re no longer at the place you are now with the beautiful ears of Wilbour and Eddie, you’ll remember it fondly 😉

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    • That’s so interesting to hear about your different perspectives in different places. I’ve arrived home and part of me is glad, but part of me is longing for those open spaces – I don’t think that particular place would have been right for me permanently, but something like it yes 🙂

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  23. How very meaningful. It’s ironic that I just finished a blog draft about trying to fit into a different landscape. It’s why it took me a while to read this post (I was away). I wrote about my experience in such a different way. Yours is poetic, meaningful, descriptive and lovely. Mine is a self-deprecating, humorous look at how far out of place I was in a different setting. My post should be up tomorrow (Tuesday) or Wednesday. I really enjoyed reading your take. It made me feel better about my own awkwardness in a different setting than I’m used to.

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  25. This post is so useful. We will be moving next year and I am almost certain I am going to have the same unsettling feeling not because of the place but because of me. It will not be an easy landscape, of that I am sure. I will have to listen to find my place in it. Thank you for the wisdom. Will need to read this many times next year, until I settle.⚘

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