The weather that weekend had been cold! The temperature hardly rising above freezing. But thankfully the snow had been mainly a light dusting of talcum powder. Nonetheless the hills were darkly defined against the fields. The stream plashed and glistened as it flowed downhill. The light now fading was a gray, mellow, bluish light. Sombre, it was restful to the eyes. Looking out from our sitting room window, the brush land woods were exactly the height to which the heart soars, not the Alps, not the Simian mountains, a modest, human scale.
The sky was like a well, you looked into the infinity of its depths, the water’s meniscus eased gently against the wall as it does in a bucket. The darkness a glimpse of our own soul, where our fate sits inside the unplumbed depths of the self. This vastness of the sky, opening out between the converging edges of the valley, tugged at the energies of the heart, like a ripcord or a tugboat, pulled where the blood eddied in the arteries, a call to prayer. Us poor sinners!
The walk down from Midge Hole along Hebden Water to town took us along a muddy track. We were accompanied by the rushing water, the splashing and echo as the water caressed the rocks in the manner of streams. At the bends in the valley, froth collected snuggling close to the rocks and rimmed by a rust brown line, an eyeliner thin fringe clinging to the lacy hem of the rim. The river is unchanging in its character except when it floods. It runs, at bends it turns and spills frothing downhill.
The brush of woodland branches, everywhere, forms a curtain of net that shrouds the snow white carpet on the fields. And the hillside wore an Afro pockmarked by disease, perhaps by an errant alopecia that was spreading and contagious.
One or two groups of other walkers, family groups were also out. There was the ubiquitous dog walker on her own. Fresh mounds of dark earth, signs of moles still at work even in the grim weather. The birds nestling on branches, mostly black birds, magpies, solitary robins merge with the vegetation and were visible mostly in flight.
We met a young couple going up hill. She had her hair in the purple and brown that twinkles even in the gloom that is Hebden Bridge in winter.
I had been reading Chekhov’s letters to Suvorin, to his sister Misha during his trip to Sakhalin (1890) in Siberia. Our genteel descent down what can only be truly described as a modestly steep hill was like a molehill to his mountain. His journey through Tomsk to Irkusk & Lake Baikal during the winter, in extreme cold and flooded rivers, even though he was spitting blood, a consumptive, puts ours to shame.
At the end, I bent down to re-tie my laces, and standing back up, swayed from the cold catching in my breath, a quickly passing swoon as of a veil before the eyes. As if to say, this is heady stuff! How remote a mile from town feels, how distant from the heave and stench of commerce! How incredibly refreshing is the wilderness that is not really wild or untouched. Not even grand in any sense.