Back to the land

August is a long, languorous month.  It’s a month in which nothing much seems to happen; a month that usually lasts far too long as I wait impatiently for the delights of September.  But this August was ushered in by a relief of storms: extravagant downpours and gentling drizzles.  Grey skies and showers have tempered the heatwave at last.  Whereas often August seems stuck, this year, it is moving quickly.  I’m losing weeks, convinced there should be more before September is here.

The month ticks by in weekly trips down the motorway for Winston’s hydrotherapy.  I watch golden fields become stubble as the wheat is harvested.  I see fields scattered with cylinders of hay and bale towers.  Barns fill as the hay is gathered, until they bulge with gold.  Then the ploughing begins and the fields turn umber.  I see the season changing in the cycle of the crops and you would think that would bring me closer to the land, but instead, I feel a detachment from it.  It is all behind glass, without the smells, the air, the sensation of my feet on the earth.

How easy it is to become detached from the environment.  Our usual walks are out of bounds, too far for Winston to manage at the moment, so we make do with the small park at the end of the road.  But I fight against the restriction and that pulls me away from the earth.  It’s been more than two months since we last visited the dene.  I see it from the bus, watch a rabbit, two crows and a young  gull grazing on the grass.  I gaze into the landscape through glass and see blackberry jewels and the flame of rowan berries.  I watch baby gulls on the roof opposite my office fledge from balls of fluff to fat, hunched chicks.  Place is something I often come back to: the way we meet it, the way we settle into it, the way it welcomes us – or not.  I’m still here, still passing through the same landscape, yet I’m outside of it.

When I feel the first chill of autumn I know that it’s time to find that connection again.  I go to the sundial because it offers a panorama of my world.  The morning broods.  Deep grey sky in the north, charcoal clouds over the distant Penshaw monument.  Storm-light.  Up here the sky is big and the land small.  The sea is a stripe of watercolour along the horizon.  Pylons are tiny cages scarring the sky.  There are five ships at anchor in the distance and wind turbines turn slowly.  I see a cloud of rooks skimming stubbly corn fields in the east.  Watch the metro weave across the landscape like a toy train.  It is a world in miniature.  I distance myself from the land below to find my way back into it, to feel myself cradled by something timeless.

I listen to the faded cry of gulls, the croak of a crow, the twitter and chitter of goldfinches and tits.  I watch two magpies scale a pine and follow the looping flight of a single goldfinch.  Dried nests of wild carrot are abundant among mahogany heads of desiccated knapweed.  Vetches salt the grass with yellow and meadow cranesbill offers a splash of lilac.  Up here the sky glowers and my skin breaks out in goosepimples.  But there is a moment when the sun, obscured by cloud, transforms a patch of sea into molten gold.  It is just visible between the pylons, this precious echo.   I watch until it fades to silver and I decide it’s time to go.  But the walk has done its trick, I feel calm, connected again to this place in which I belong.

The next morning I follow the pool of gold to the sea.  A flight of swallows surprises me as I reach the edge of the cliffs.  They swoop upwards, curling towards the terrace of houses behind me, then back towards the beach.  I wonder if this group has been gathered here all summer or if they are preparing to leave.  A small murmuration of starlings seeps across the rooftops before splitting up and vanishing.

The colours are intense in the early light.  The sand is flat and rippled, punctured by the casts of lugworms.  The sea is hushed.  The pool of gold is a river from horizon to land.  A curlew and a redshank forage on the rocks, oystercatchers saunter on the shore.  A roost of pigeons has commandeered one of the caves on the beach.  They flutter from its mouth as I approach.  A lone bird remains in a crevice above the entrance, watching me.  I retreat slowly and leave her in peace.

I sit on the rocks beside the pier, watching and letting the landscape soak back into my bones.  This is me: earth and sea and sky.  This is my land and my place.  The trick is to walk in it, to engage with it, otherwise it is just background.  When I feel the sand shift beneath my feet or hear the pipe of a redshank echo across the rocks I know that I’ve returned.

 

93 thoughts on “Back to the land

  1. Thank you Andrea. I love your evocative words that so beautifully show your communion with nature. I feel refreshed simply reading this post. And you remind me that I too need to get back to the land and myself by walking in nature more. Thank you. ❤

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  2. Love the contrast you’ve established in this post between your drives to town with Winston, what you see on those drives on the highway and what you experience over your walks. Driving provides us vision sensations, since we mostly drive windows up nowadays. A walk is the only way to reconnect mind and body. I envy the fact that your seasons are so distinct and yet subtle as they pass from one to another. I miss that and I’m happy for you to read about the feelings of belonging you experience as you connect with your world. I hope that Winston will feel better soon to join you on longer walks. See you, Andrea.

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  3. The erlicheer at my gate is in flower, the pair of mallards outside the kitchen window are reduced to one (mother’s sitting on eggs somewhere), the Christmas lilies have poked their heads through the soil, the… see what you’re doing to me, an old cynic…!

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  4. Our energy is renewed from connecting to the earth. I feel lost without it. Your place looks and sounds quite beautiful and peaceful. Hard to believe the summer is almost over, it feels like the days just flew by. Hope Winston feels better. ❤

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  5. I love your walks, Andrea. Your writing reads like one long flowing blanket that hugs me. I am always in awe of those, like you, who can name plants and birds and such…
    I felt the tension of my loud and crazy work night leave my shoulders as I read along… Thank you.

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  6. I always save your posts for the last, not knowing how long and how powerfully I’ll be transcended. It’s usually the maximum and I tend to dissolve from my position, always ending feeling a little lost, a little refreshed, and being gripped by a subliminal yearning to break free from my bondings.

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  7. ‘Letting the landscape soak back into my bones..This is me…this is my land and my place.’ You express so beautifully what so many of us feel about this our wonderful island home. Thank you Andrea for being our poetic mouthpiece.

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  8. As ever, brilliant. Like you, I feel totally disconnected from nature and the world when travelling in cars, buses, ,etc. In fact, I stopped driving 25 years ago when I returned to the UK and have never driven since….and I don’t miss it one bit. I do take public transportation, but my feet are the best method for getting around, and it is when I am walking and sitting with nature that I feel alive.
    You manage to express these thoughts and feelings so beautifully….also the onset of September will forever be a very special time for me. August a rather sludgy month.,…..although this year it seems that I have been involved in more social things than ever before…however, I have had enough and am now ready for the change.
    We have also had a break in the prolonged heat of summer – and are now back to temperatures that I like and that keep my energy level high.
    Your dog is so sweet….may you both enjoy a lovely September filled with wonderful walks. Janet 🙂

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    • Thanks Janet. I don’t drive myself and I do enjoy watching the landscape from the passenger seat of a car or from a bus, but it isn’t the same as walking in it – we need a bit of both. September and October are my favourite months so I always look forward to them 🙂

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  9. I, too, am wondering why the weeks of August are so few! It seems too soon for spring but I will welcome it anyway, with its longer evenings and hints of summer to come. It’s lovely you have reconnected to your place, your earth. It’s so easy to lose touch; literal touch. I wonder if Winston feels he has lost touch with his larger world.

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  10. Beautiful place-words, Andrea. I am feeling the coming change in the seasons as well. It was cooler here over the weekend, but we’ll soon be back into the nineties again. The birds seem to be rowdier lately, also a typical sign for me that autumn is lurking.

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  11. This is simply beautiful writing. I was there with you. This morning was the first to feel like fall. It was heavenly, the crispness of it all, the early darkness, the slight chill. I loved it, as I love your writings.

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  12. That last paragraph moved me for some reason. Perhaps it reminded me of my own oneness with the earth, sea and sky. I know what you mean . . . that disconnection. I’ve had it lately myself, mostly because it’s too hot stay outside. As much as I want fall to arrive, I feel like summer is slipping away.

    Thank you for taking me along and getting me connected through your words. Blessings to you.

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  13. Gorgeous writing and photos, Andrea. Still very warm here, and we could use a good downpour of rain, the grass is so dry. Not anxious for summer to be over, though, because our winters are long.
    I hope Winston is doing well with his therapy!

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  14. Pingback: #Inspiration #3.2.1 Me Challenge | Not Tomatoes

  15. For a variety of reasons, I haven’t gotten out to walk in my world much this summer either. The last fews days have changed that and I’m remembering how good it is for me, to walk the neighborhood, see the little critters, and feel autumn approach. Is Winston arthritic?

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    • I’m glad you’re enjoying your landscape Kerry. Winston has been diagnosed with a couple of calcified discs in his spine and he has probably also had a stroke, so his back legs aren’t working the way they should. It isn’t bad enough for surgery fortunately so he has to have hydrotherapy to try to teach his muscles what they’re supposed to do again.

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  16. Thank you for taking me into your refreshing connection with nature while my physical surroundings still cry out for relief from the heat and drought. I’m glad to read sweet Winston is responding to hydrotherapy. Hope he’ll be able to enjoy his larger, freer world again soon.

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  17. Hello Andrea, your writing brought the very essence of the coast to land-locked Staffordshire, I’m still day-dreaming. Sea watching from a sheltered hide during a Winter storm was always my favorite, it tested my every sense, whilst at the same time, blowing away the Cobwebs. Your piece brought all that flooding back. Cheers.
    Give Winston a gentle rub on his head for me please. Keep well.
    Mick.

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  18. “This is me: earth and sea and sky” Goosebumps. YES, we are each so connected to the earth and sea and sky, but these days, as people busy themselves with their too busy lives, I think they get totally disconnected, thus the scads of unhappy people out there. I wish everyone would read this post and stop and realize what they’re missing. When sadness creeps in, or confusion, or pain, all we need to do is go OUT into the nature near us, whether it be ocean or forest, plains or farmland. Walk. Smell. Listen. Breathe. And return to the “ME” within each of us. Just beautiful Andrea. And hugs to Winston. xo

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  19. Winston is so darn cute. I hope the hydrotherapy is helping him? They are furry angels, our dogs. I’m sure of it. And autumn–mixed feelings on this end. I normally love spring and autumn. But this year, I just feel I need a bit more sun, warmth, outdoor time. I’m not ready yet for blustery . . . you pics are gorgeous, lazy, end-of-summer vibe.

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    • We always come out feeling positive Kristine, you can see that he works hard and the therapists see improvements. I’m happy to say hello to the nip in the air but I hope you get a little more of the sunshine you want 🙂

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  20. I am so pleased you have been able to reconnect with nature and the land. I know exactly how difficult it is to feel a part of it all when it is viewed through the car windows! I am in the car most days, ferrying Mum or my daughter or my husband about to all their appointments with hardly any time for walks or a visit to the coast at present. I am also glad that Winston is responding well to treatment.
    I always look forward to reading your wonderful posts, Andrea. Beautiful photos and evocative words; I like to read them a few times just to savour them properly.

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  21. How lovely to walk near the water, near the rocks and the pigeon in her crevice. August here has not been the most pleasant of months, and I can’t say I’ve been terribly inspired to spend much time outside. My many bug bites – courtesy (indirectly) of the excess of rain – second the motion I’d rather walk up your way. 🙂 Hmmmm … I see a challenge ahead. I’m in! (Back soon.)

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  22. It is easy to disconnect from the landscape when we are busy – modern life draws us away. This resonated with me at the moment; struggling to get back to a work after a long career break. It’s so important to find time to just be in our environment. 🙂

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  23. I love the engaging thoughts on getting back to the land, Andrea. It warms my heart in seeing your photos and reading similar nuances in the sights, sounds and smells of another land but connected somehow, especially in the changing of the seasons. Brought to mind a murmuration of starlings video I’ve always loved that seemed to capture, for me, your post. Here’s the link: http://vimeo.com/58291553

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  24. What a beautiful, evocative piece. We can really feel your connection with this bit of earth and sea. Glad you were able to re-establish your connection. Wish I knew as much about our local flora and fauna as you do about yours.

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  25. First time I have ever seen Winston! He is adorable. What a blessing he must be. My mom is in the hospital, and she had a visit from a beautiful therapy dog, a golden retriever, which brought her a deep joy. Beautiful prose! Love the photos too.

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  26. I just love all those images you’ve painted, Andrea. My special favourite is the paragraph that mentions the watercolour striped sea, the pylon cages, and the wind turbines. Throughout, I sense your longing to get going and be free to stride out again, versus your love and patience with your precious Winston. Could you teach him to tolerate seeing the world from on high, peeping out of a backpack on your shoulders? It’s probably something you’d have needed to teach him from the beginning and would be too frustrating for him when he’s used to running free and exploring every inch of the ground. Just a thought, though. Alternatively, a baby-carrier that you can wear on your front, so you can communicate with him more and read his mood.

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    • Thanks Sarah, it was a particularly wonderful view that morning. Winston has a buggy, a special dog pushchair! The physio suggested it as a way to take him further – so we’ve been to the dene for the first time this week – walked there and buggy back. He doesn’t like it, he’d rather be walking and sniffing on the ground, but he’s coping with it quite well. You feel a bit daft walking along with a dog in a buggy, especially where I live, but needs must 🙂

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