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.