Saturday, 28 March 2015

Field Walking

The week had been a long one, filled with more than five days should have any right to be, and it was good to shut the car door and walk in the open air. 
I took the field edge path. 
The ground was hard beneath my boots, no soft loam this but chalk. After rain it forms a slick lamination, but under this warm spring sunshine it was powder dry, and grey mottled with white like extinguished ashes. 
The field stretched away towards the rolling edge of the hill, and beyond other fields juxtaposed it; some running this way, others ranging this way, and the still-bare trees reaching up towards my view. In the distance, the city glinted beside Tennyson's "one grey glimpse of sea", its cathedral spire propping up the sky. I revelled in the view and its dry-brush-stokes and ink-runs of colour. 
On a closer scale, where the chalk dust was disturbed by the soles of my boots, were tiny blue eyes of speedwell flowers. Crooked swollen roots, beets or turnips that had evaded the nipping sheep who had so recently left the field, grew quietly yet unapologetically, forcing their way between chunks of flint. 
These chalk-suffused rocks rise through the hill with every rain, and peppered the field. Here and there, where a ploughshare had shattered one, it revealed its dark soul; an inky steel-grey the colour of a cold deep sea. Once the flint was prized by those peoples long gone who carved the encampment out of the hilltop and who mined these hills for the sake of the flints' cutting edge.
The suns warmth had absent-mindedly departed, and the strengthening wind was blowing skylark song away to the east. With my pockets weighed by treasured things, collected child-like; a feather, a shard of flint with a quartz inclusion that retained the day's heat longer than I (it now acts as a convenient, if unusual, paperweight on my desk), and a tuft of sheep's wool extracted from a fence barb as though I were a bird lining my nest, and my eyes aching from squinting through the shimmer haze that hangs above the chalk when the sun heats it, it was time to leave and shut the car door on the open air.