The night before last, Hollydog took us on an adventure. In the Dark.
Our house is on the market. Up for sale. It is time to move. There are a host of reasons why this is so but, really, they are only intellectual justifications for what is, essentially, an instinctive decision. A gut feeling. We have been very happy in our house. We love it and struggle to find anywhere else we like better. Yet, deep down, we know that it is time to leave. To move on. This year has been one of tumultuous changes for us as a family. And, on a world stage generally, this feels like a time of huge change. Things are shifting. We are standing at the edge of something new. The cliff’s edge. An exciting and slightly terrifying place to be.
And, in these times of changes, it feels important to find a home where we are comforted, nurtured, held safe. Which is why, on many levels, it seems crazy to move house now. From a place where we have invested a lot of time and energy into creating a home. Into the unknown. We don’t know where we are going to end up. Not yet. But we do know that we have to move. It doesn’t feel like we have a choice about that.
But, we have to feel that we are welcomed by the landscape of where ever we end up. We need to feel a connection to the land. So, we go and look at houses, prospective new homes. And we look out of the windows of these houses. We walk in their gardens. We taste the quality of light that falls upon them. The buildings themselves are almost incidental. Yes, we need a workshop, a room for Jo to give Shiatsu treatments. But, what is essential, is that the land in which the house sits speaks to us. That we feel connected to it.
So, we walk. Walk in the areas surrounding the houses. And we notice how we feel.
One house that we like sits in Easthope, a small village a few miles away from where we live now. Easthope is watched over by a hill. A hill covered by trees. Mogg Forest. Those trees hide an Iron Age hill fort. For us, this is very exciting. To live in sight of a place that has been a home for people since ancient times holds a special power. It bestows a sense of continuity. Of connection. Connects us to a larger, wider view of humanity. Of human possibilities. Reminds us that the world we inhabit now, a world that seems, to us, broken and insane, is only a moment in Time. A blip. An aberration. Time will pass. The world will change. Balance will be restored.
So, on Thursday afternoon, we decided to take Holly for a walk around Easthope. Across the fields and up the hill and into Mogg Forest. It is a magical place. Overgrown with bramble and fern. Paths unclear. Criss crossed by fallen trees and branches. Debris of the gales that have blown throughout November and into December. It was hard work getting to the top. But well worth it. The summit of the hill is encircled by large earthworks. A clear system of mounds and ditches that enclose the hilltop plateau in a comforting embrace. Jo was absolutely in her element. She has always been drawn to these ancient places. She holds the stones of such places in her hands and is happy. Runs the earth between her fingers and smiles. Connected. I too feel that this is a good place. The views from the top are panoramic. Stunning. To one side, the Brown Clee. To the other, the Wrekin. Both with major hill forts of their own. Up here we are suddenly connected to the wider Shropshire landscape. A network of ancient history covering the land.
Holly likes it too. She runs excitedly through the woodland. Exploring its new scents and doggy secret treasures. And then it all begins to go a bit wrong. We are so taken up with the wonder of it all that we stop paying attention to the dog. She gets the scent of something. Follows it. We fail to notice. She follows it further. Still, we fail to notice. Follow. Fail. Follow. Gone.
I look up and catch sight of her in the distance disappearing into a different woodland – a small copse across two fields. She moves so fast. Covers ground so swiftly. She is, by now, well out of earshot. Her hearing, anyway, is swamped by her sense of smell. Caught up by the scent she follows. Drenched in adrenaline. She is no longer capable of hearing our calls. We have no choice but to set off in pursuit. And, all the time, we have the growing awareness that we don’t have time for this none-sense. We set off on the walk quite late. At this time of year, daylight hours are short. Darkness is coming. This knowledge makes us apprehensive. We have been taught that it is not safe to be outside on an unfamiliar hillside in the Dark.
We shout and whistle with growing impatience and without result. There is no sign of Holly. Light fades. Colours recede. The world becomes slowly sepia. Darkness creeps up to the sound of our cursing the dog. Until we find ourselves standing in the night wondering what to do next.
And as we wonder, we begin to notice that the world around us is ……. beautiful. Our wondering is replaced by wonder at the sheer majesty of this landscape in the dark. It does not feel frightening or dangerous. It feels comforting. Friendly.
Then, Holly appears. Smiling. As if to say, “You had forgotten the beauty of the Dark. So, I had to remind you. I hope that you are grateful.”
And we are.
And, finally, today’s gift. Another song. A beautiful song about Darkness and Light.