Autumn Sun: 2013 365 Challenge #310

Sunlit walk

Sunlit walk

Back in the summer I did a freewrite on the season and had a vague idea of compiling a seasons thesaurus. Add it to the list of projects. Still, it doesn’t hurt to take some notice as the weather changes. Here are my thoughts on a sunny autumn day.

The wind chills my cheeks as I walk, but it’s refreshing after weeks spent indoors watching the rain. I feel like I’ve been breathing the same air for too long and my skin feels clogged.

The sun paints long shadows across the fields, as it drops to the horizon despite it only being mid-afternoon. Beneath my feet, soggy leaves lay scattered in a random pattern of yellow and brown. Those on the trees look tattered. Hanging on against the odds.

When the wind drops the sun brings warm memories of summer and hope for a swift return although autumn is only just here. Across the endless azure sky tufts of cloud are hurried like so many sheep before the biting wind. The wind whistles in my ears like the sound of rushing blood or an angry sea. It drags tears from my eyes and makes my nose run.

Autumn sun

Autumn sun

My shadow marches at my side, long and dark against the bare hedges. Muddy puddles make a playground for the dog and tractor wheels have dug deep furrows in the road.

The fields dance with short stems of green as a winter crop pokes optimistically about the earth. Seagulls searching for wormy treats swoop and dive over the green landlocked sea of soil.

As I walk beneath the trees the wind stops and I hear the bird song, adding welcome decoration to the endless green, blue and brown. The sun sparks a fire in my heart – so precious after weeks of rain and grey skies. I walk slowly to savour the warmth on my skin, feeling too hot and bundled in my thick coat.

Despite the cold cheeks and wind-battered face I am reluctant to return home. The house feels like a dark cave, gloomy and dead, with stale air and artificial light. Somewhere to hibernate like a hedgehog.

The dog brings me a muddy stick, and throws it playfully at my feet. She runs with glee through the mud as it squishes between her claws. My house won’t be clean again until spring

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:

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Claire gripped the rail with two hands as the spray from the sea glistened on the wood and made it slippery beneath her fingers. Her thighs burned from climbing the steep steps, but she refused to stop for a breather. If she looked around she might notice the steep drop down to the rocks below, visible beneath the white froth of the crashing waves.

Trust me to come on a windy day. I should have waited until it was calmer.

The manager at the hostel had said a visit to Tintagel castle would be all the more impressive against the backdrop of the rough sea. She’d failed to mention the perilous climb or the narrow stairway.

Claire pulled into the side to make way for an elderly couple, holding hands and giggling as they skipped down the steps like teenagers. Claire wondered what they found so funny.

At last she reached the castle, perched on the cliff top overlooking the sea.

How on earth did they build this, all the way up here? In the dark ages, with no equipment? Crazy.

With the wind threatening to drag her from the cliffs, Claire wandered around the ruined castle, trying to imagine what it must have been like when it was complete. The views stretched for miles, even on a blustery day, with the scudding clouds chasing each other across the sky.

Turning to see how far she had come, Claire held her breath at the sight of the castle walls, looking like piles of balanced stones or sand castles, climbing the steep rock face, with the tiny archway leading through to the endless steps back to the mainland. Overhead, seagulls screamed their defiance to the wind, swooping and diving in an endless dance.

With effort, Claire blocked out the sounds of the tourists, the giggling children, the frantic mothers, the bored teenagers up to mischief. She focussed on the cry of the birds and the howl of the wind and felt herself transported to another time.

Who knew all this beauty was here? So much history crammed into one place and I would never have come if it weren’t for this project.

For a moment all the fear and doubt seemed worthwhile. It seemed a shame to come back to the present and take notes for her report.

I have to remember I’m being paid to be here, I’m not on holiday.

With a sigh that was instantly whipped away from her mouth by the playful wind, Claire began her exploration of the site, taking notes of all the things people seemed to enjoy.

I wonder if the castle in Dorset is this impressive. What’s it called? Cough castle or something like that. I’d better look it up.

*

It was getting dark by the time Claire finished her tour of the island. She’d covered every element – from the gun house to Merlin’s Cave – and her legs throbbed while her mind swirled with the history and mythical stories she’d consumed.

Looking up at the castle from the café, it wasn’t hard to imagine Arthur and Guinevere standing in an open window holding hands, or cosying down on a rug in front of a roaring fire, while Lancelot stormed across the cliff tops in a jealous rage.

Blimey this place does bring out the romantic. What tosh.

She smiled at the thoughts, ignoring the prosaic part of her mind that told her it was all just legend anyway.

What difference does it make? Real historical figures are only as real as the representations of them, passed down through the centuries. Arthur and his missus are as real as any European king. Probably more so, seeing as we know more about him.

Trying to drag her mind back to her work, she wondered if there were any legendary characters lurking around Conor’s stomping ground that could be used to good effect in her report. It wouldn’t hurt to look like she’d done her homework.

Claire cupped her hands around her mug of coffee and let her mind drift, until the images of Arthur ravishing his queen morphed into Conor’s boyish face; his hair windswept and his green eyes full of love. With a quick shake of her head she dispelled the image.

He wouldn’t spend five minutes in a remote place like this. Not enough people.

She drained the last of her drink and headed back to the car.

***

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