It’s only a few more days until winter is officially over here, and I am so, so ready to say goodbye to it. Readier than I have ever been. I’ve tried to embrace the last few months, tried to get on board with the constant tingle of cold gnawing at my bones. I’ve tried to appreciate sludgy snow, biting winds, silver grey skies, short sharp days, and spattering rain; tried to embrace my inner ice queen. I have so, so tried. Really and truly.
But my heart wants spring now, right this very minute, more than it has ever wanted spring before.
I want blooming flowers and zesty bright greens. I want long, long days and I want evenings spent laughing in slowly, gently, softly dying light. I want to lounge in warm, golden sunshine with a book, blossom tumbling from the trees, bees humming through the air. I want strawberries that are fresh and juicy and sweet. I want floaty dresses and flip flops. I even want SPF 50 sunscreen.
There’s just the matter of those tricksy few more days to get through.
I’ll be spending them how I’ve tried to spend the rest of winter: walking off the cold, walking off the grey, walking off the cabin fever.
And, of course, there’ll be the odd bit of reading thrown in too.
If you look too long into the green the green will eat you up. It will wind its way around your heart and its splintered roots will lodge inside your bones. Underneath your skull, a whole forest will unfurl and make your thoughts a muddle. You’ll try to leave it, try to live beyond it, but you’ll find your soul ensnared, find it calling you back, pulling you back, painting your blood and staining you through.
At 36 pages, Holloway by Robert Macfarlane isn’t the longest read on the planet, but it was one of the nicest reading experiences I’ve had in a long time.
It’s teeny-tiny and delicate and cherishable, something to be picked up and reread every now and then. Something to get lost in for ten minutes. Something ‘within which ghosts softly flock’. It’s kind of like a prayer book – one where God is south Dorset (biased? me? *waves hand dismissively but guiltily*), gnarly knotted trees, sunken many-lives-haunted pathways, friendship, and quiet adventure.
The castle looms like it always does, a tangling mess of steely grey rock studded into tufted grass.
I try to ignore my hands as they turn redder and redder, try not to worry about the purple blotches growing in amongst the red.
I collect a ticket and hand it back in a minute later, after the bridge, after the wobbly entrance arch, after getting attached to it and feeling like I don’t want to hand it in (the hoarder in me wants to keep it, as if not keeping it will mean I have never been).
Beyond the entrance, there are stocks to the left. A memory of sticking my head and hands in it years ago flurries round my head. My lungs remember how much my sister and I laughed that day.
Up, up, up goes the path, and I follow.
More paths, more steps.
The views are beautiful. Fields and trees and hills and tantalizing sunbeams falling far away.
Heart slowing, lungs calming, I stop with one hand pressed against a towering chunk of wall that’s angled very unhow a wall should be angled. The picture of it crumbling, the feel of it giving way, floods my head. Maybe it’s best to move on.
Walk, slip, trip.
Broken hallways hiss with icy gusts of wind. Walls are painted green with veils of moss and drip with sticky rain. Elsewhere, they are blotchy with lichen, a mix of grubby white and sickly yellow that blurs into the grey.
The sound of children playing on their lunchbreak twinkles all around the air, filling it with echoes of playful happiness. The sound of traffic buzzes like it buzzes almost everywhere. I wish I could eavesdrop on the sounds of five hundred years ago and five hundred years from now, wish I could know who’s stood here before and who’ll stand here one day.
I take a turn. It leads to a dead end. I head back, try to refind the main path. I attempt to take a shortcut and slide inelegantly between a rock and a hard place. I pray there are no cameras to record my momentary wedgedness between aforementioned rock and hard place. I wonder if walking/shuffling through (getting slightly stuck in) a wall makes me some sort of ghost. I worry I might’ve just frightened someone in the fifteenth century.
Soggy steps lead downwards.
I look up as the sun bubbles through a patch of clouds. It’s framed by one of the many derelict windows and I try to take a nice photo, but, no matter how many I take, none of them look better, none of them shine brighter, than the real-time thing. Away goes the phone.
I head back down the hill, trying not to slide down the cobblestones, trying not to surf down the grass.
The castle looks smaller than it feels in my head when I look back up, and I’m not sure if I’ve imagined it big or my eyes have tricked it small.
I came here looking for something. I don’t know what exactly. I don’t even know if I found it. I hope so.
Come and walk where the trees burn with rainbows! Join us in a land of magic and wonder, where colours bleed into the sky and claw their way towards the stars, where darkness is made bright! Ladies and gentlemen, follow us to a place where the air is so cold your lungs will turn it white, a place so cold your skin will bump with gooses!
Roll up, roll up, and keep your eyes wide open!
And please, ladies and gentlemen, remember to stay with us on the paths!
For we cannot help you beyond the lights. We cannot help you in the dark.
You know the saying “blow the cobwebs away”? After walking at Durdle Door today, I’m pretty sure I’m sorted on the cobwebs front for life.
It was so – so, so, so – windy. My face hurt. My ears hurt. My eyes hurt. My eyelashes even hurt, as the air tried its best to burrow into my eye sockets and brain.
Between the steps down to Man O’ War beach and the steps to Durdle Door, the air funnelled through so hard it was like being battered in the face and chest. I thought, at one point, my shirt and jacket might sink through my skin, tear through my ribs, and rip out through my spine, leaving a tangly mess of me and my clothes in the churning sea below.
Luckily, that didn’t happen. Which is good, because it means I can go again sometime.
The sound of rain outisde my window early this morning made me happy.
The drips and drops and thousand tiny splashes humming on paving slabs and freshly unfurled leaves made me want to run outside and stay there until my skin became only a half-skin, the rest of it made up of water and sky.
Once I’d got up, once I’d made a cup of tea, once I’d cuddled one cat, two cats, three cats, I stood at the doorway in my pyjamas and listened to the garden echo with rain and birdsong. My toes got wet as they gripped the doorstep. My lungs got clean as they filtered soggy air. My heart got heavy as it realised I wasn’t brave enough to step out into this soaking, squelchy, drowning world because my head had decided it was a silly thing to do.
It was silly. Totally silly. Silly through and through.
It’s natural to want to bask in sunshine, but to want to bask in rain?
That, though, had been the point.
I’ve spent the rest of the day trying to make up for my lack of bravery, but being kitted out with boots and a raincoat kind of takes the magic away.
So tomorrow, I hope it’s raining when I wake up.
If it is, you’ll find me in the garden in my pj’s, clutching a cup of overflowing-diluted-rainy tea, being completely and utterly ridiculous.
There’s something calming about going for a walk – heading off down lanes and paths and tracks, just letting your feet lead the way. It always makes my head clearer and my heart lighter.
A few weeks ago, after Sunday lunch, my mum and I headed out for a walk along the banks of our local river. It’s a good place to natter/confide/joke/argue/not say anything at all, and I’ve walked the paths there so many times for so long I’m sure they’ve actually moulded the shape of my feet.
It wasn’t very busy – the clouds were very grey and the ground was still sticky from weeks of rain – but there were a few other families out for a Sunday afternoon stroll.
At one point we passed a little family. The parents were timidly picking out a route as far from the mud as possible (which wasn’t that possible) while their little girl was striding ahead through the puddles and marshy ground.
The mum said she thought they should go back, and the dad didn’t look too keen to go any further either. But the little girl wanted to carry on and refused to budge.
The mum said it was too muddy, the little girl said she wanted to get muddier.
*high-five for little girl*
Me and my mum carried on our way. When we snuck a glance over our shoulders further along the path the little family were nowhere to be seen.
Obviously there was no more getting muddier for the girl.
But it got me thinking – isn’t it funny how children can be braver than grown ups? They look at a muddy field and want to keep walking, keep striding forwards, keep getting muddier.
Because who cares about a bit of mud?
I want to be more like that little girl in my everyday life. I want to be more adventurous and less worried/nervous/afraid. Even if it’s just in small ways that seem insignificant. Small things add up.
If I fail, at least I tried. If I fall flat on my face, I can get back up. If I make a mistake, I can learn. If people point at me and laugh at me, I can get over it and move on even though it might (will) hurt.
So thank you, little girl. You’ve inspired this bigger girl.
Days slowly getting longer. Brave flowers peeping up out of the cool ground. Promising warmth in golden sunshine.
It’s a happy mix of the perks of winter – the cosy evenings in front of the fire, a pair of cold hands kept warm by a mug of hot chocolate, rosy red cheeks from frosty air – whilst knowing that spring and summer, with all their greenness and sunniness and loveliness, are on the way.
A late winter magic.
I try to spend as much time as possible outside at this point in the year, soaking in some much needed sun rays and enjoying all the bursts of bright colour in amongst the greens and browns.