I remember, once whilst feeding the calves turnips I had pushed and argued with, until the old cutter conceded and obliged those frozen rounds into long shards, being kicked in the thigh. I was walking behind the long line of twitching butts, never a good plan around such creatures, and the blow send me backwards into the muck. Stunned, at first, I smiled despite the shout of pain and was up on my feet again in a nanosecond, before the urinary wet absorbed me completely. It was my fault, my mistake. I had gone too close, talking to these young things as if they were my own young things who would never have lashed out in such a way. Had they done so, the reprobation might have pushed them right back to touch. It taught me caution and a respect for animals who, whilst they generally might comply, still have boundaries.
Today the sky is light and blue, the sunset pinking the hills beyond the sea-loch, darkening them in a pen line I had never managed to achieve on canvas. It just always looked like a pen line and nothing like the real thing. We have had no rain this day, the first for many weeks and everything changes on such a day. The temperature is lower, the likelihood of frost more likely and the light everywhere is sharper, clearer, more defined. The sea-loch is striated with lines of salt water invasion as the incoming tide makes her name known. The fresh water resists and the result is a tapestry of arguments, beautiful in conflict, sea froth a puzzled creature caught up in a battle not its own. Bubbles of creamy lift form eloquent shapes above the melee and the gulls cry our their endless argument with pretty much everything.
As I walked along the track I heard birdsong, a rapture of it and something I haven’t heard for a long time. Even though it is a winter song now, it is still a heart lift. I watched them flip and dart through the skinny purple limbs of the silver birch with her witches fingers and decided I would cut some for a winter vase, maybe with twinkly-winkly lights, only, that is, if I can finally get some that aren’t cold green despite their warm light promise. Maybe I will and maybe not. They look so stunning just where they are as I duck down and squint through them to the sky beyond. Horse hoof prints mud the track, dipping it enough for me to know they have been here before me. It thinks me.
I oft look for tracks. Had I been a different soul in a different time, my work would have been tracking. Not for gain or destruction but just for interest. Every time I walk here, on a track I know so well, traversed by people and dogs I know so well, I still notice everything. A broken branch, leaves of a tree that isn’t here, where the land falters after rain and when it rises again; where the deer move over a drystone wall, following a leyline, one that has been in place for generations, regardless of human boundary settings. Nosing into the woods, I find a broken stem, a pinch of coarse hair on a branch. Deer moving, moving whilst I sleep, secret, ancient.
When I went to the Alps last February with family, there were two of us who didn’t want to ski. Me and my grandson, the only grandson among nine granddaughters. He and I love books and curiosity. So, whilst the others spent ages pulling themselves into all kinds of warm kit and heading off, we read, or talked. At lunchtime, we agreed to meet them at the top for lunch. Neither of us fancied the lift. All that swinging and shouting and noise. I don’t like that one. He said. I looked at it, all grey and full of people in full voice. Nor me, I replied. We were silent for a bit, me thinking, How the heck do I get him up there? Then he said, pointing to the little red bubble, But I would go up in that one.
It was small and quiet. As we lifted up and up and up, I looked down. Look, Oran……Wolf tracks! He was captivated. When we arrived in the noise and scatter and speakers and bars and noise, I said, with no conviction and surely anticipating a great belly laugh of disdain, We saw wolf tracks on the mountain on our way up, big there were, massive, and on virgin snow! The response surprised me. Oh, yes, they said. There are wolves up here.