Gorgeous summer evening
As I wrote this post on my phone I thought I’d list the reasons why I love walking the dog.
1. Me time. Time to write my blog (like now). Time to get to the end of a thought uninterrupted. Life slows down.
When the kids have been chattering all day or we’ve been for a sensory-overload swim (like tonight, with the excitement of my 4yo daughter learning to dive, do underwater rolls and swim on her back all in one session), the fields are a balm to my nerves. All I can hear is the cry of the kites and the whisper of the wind through the ripe oilseed rape. It sounds like the sea.
2. Seasons. It’s too easy to ignore the changing of the seasons, but walking the same field every day I see the trees both bare and decked in green, the fields yellow with wheat or brown with ploughed soil. It reminds me of Gerard Manley Hopkins, particularly my favourite poem The Windhover. The penultimate line is: “Sheer plod makes plough down sillion | shine”.
The stream, willowbrook
3. Senses. Walking through the fields awakens the senses: Not just sight, but the touch of wind on my skin, or even the stench of the sewage works we walk past. In the autumn there are blackberries to taste, and always the sounds of the insects, the kites, the river, even the planes, cars, children laughing, the goat head-butting its shed, sheep bleating and an endless chorus of bird calls.
4. Weather. Hot winds, icy winds, snow, rain, hail, thunder, muggy heat, cool evening breeze, hot sunny days buzzing with flies. Twenty minutes of weather to keep me grounded and help me with my writing (many Claire posts feature the day’s weather.)
5. Community. Like going to the park with my kids, I meet fellow dog walkers some evenings. Our dogs play and we chat about the weather (we’re British, what else). As with the parents in the par,k I only know the names of the little ones, but we’re still friends. I wave if I see them in town. For someone who doesn’t have many friends and finds it hard to socialise, my dog gives me a sense of belonging.
6. Nature. I’ve seen rabbits, hares, foxes, deer, muntjacs, water voles, fish, kites, swallows, swooping starlings, ducks, herons, swans. The best of British wildlife can be seen round this one field.
Kara in the river
7. Vicarious pleasure. Right now Kara is running through the grass, tongue lolling, tail wagging. She’ll jump in the river for sticks or chase (but never catch) wild bunnies. And the whole time she’s grinning.
She runs to feel the wind in her ears and the ground beneath her paws. At home she’s often nervous, anxious, worried. She gets told off for being a dog, for barking at the postman or jumping on the kids. Out here she can be herself (within reason – I do try to prevent her rolling in fox poo, although I failed this evening!). She trots along like a winning entrant at Crufts and it’s her time to shine.
8. Sunsets. I know that’s also weather, but it deserves a separate category. The sun is currently shining on our house like the fingers of God, and the sky is every colour of blue, indigo, violet. I’ve tried many times to paint it, but Nature is a better artist than me.
Our house is in the middle
9. Exercise. Even though I run after the kids all day, I don’t get enough exercise. Actually, walking at the slow pace I need to to write this blog probably isn’t making much difference, but it gets the legs moving. Since damaging my knee rowing last year it’s all I’m up to.
10. Home. I can see my house for the whole walk. Even on the 45 minute one I can see it most of the time. These are my fields (well, they’re not, thankfully. It’s a hard life being a farmer). I grew up three miles away. I love my house, my village, my family, my landscape. It’s quiet and placid and it suits me perfectly.
I miss the mountains and oceans of former homes, former lives, but this one fits me like a comfortable pair of shoes. And when the late evening sun hits the trees and fields just so, like now, it’s the most beautiful place on Earth.
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:
“Excuse me, Ma’am, have you used these in the last six months?”
Claire peered at the man behind the desk and tried to make sense of the question.
“Um. Yes? They’re hiking boots. There wouldn’t be much point having them if I didn’t use them. They’re bloody heavy for a start.” The words spilled from her mouth unchecked, and she flushed. Great, now the guy’s going to get arsey. Just let me through, for pity’s sake. She waited for the man to frown, or tell her off. Instead he grinned.
“Sorry, I know: it’s crazy as. I have to ask. They’ll need disinfecting before you can have them back.”
“You’re confiscating my boots because they’re muddy?” Claire frowned. “They’re boots; they’re meant to be dirty.”
The man laughed, not unkindly. “It’s to stop the nasties getting in. They sprayed the plane too, right?”
Claire stared at the man and slowly shook her head. “I must have been asleep.”
“Ah, that’d explain it. Well, no worries, we’ll have these back in a jiffy. You just sit tight and someone will shout when they’re done.”
He gestured to a row of plastic seats and Claire had to bite down a stream of swearwords threatening to spill forth. I’ve been sitting for two days. I want a shower, a cup of tea in a proper mug, and a bed. To myself. She stomped to the seat and perched on the edge, trying not to dwell on the humiliation of waking up nestled against Darren’s shoulder, or the image of the small patch of drool she’d left on his top.
An hour later the same charming Kiwi called her name and handed her a bag containing her germ-free boots, with a smiling, “Cheers!”
Claire couldn’t help smiling back. “At least they’re clean. Thanks.”
“No worries.” The man gave a nod, and turned back to his work.
The smile was still in place as Claire headed out to find the bus meant to take her into Auckland and the central backpackers. She had no sense of what time it was, but the air felt warm and a hazy sun was visible above the airport buildings. Somewhere in her muffled thoughts was the idea that she should stay awake until nearer bedtime, to beat the jet lag.
Claire felt like she’d seen most of Auckland by the time the minibus dropped her outside the central hostel. She’d decided to stay for a couple of nights, largely because there was a bar on site, meaning she could eat and sleep for a day or two without effort. There had been too much time to think, on the flight, with only abridged movies and cardboard food to distract her. She was desperate for the blank bliss of proper horizontal sleep.
I guess I should get in touch with Roger, tell him I seem to have taken him up on his offer. It didn’t seem that important, now she was here. Maybe I can just have a holiday.
Reaching her room, Claire forced her limbs to walk the extra steps to a free bed by the window, grateful there were no bunks to climb. Through the glass she could hear the sound of a jack hammer in the street below, throbbing in time with the headache that had plagued her since Singapore. She hoped the noise wouldn’t keep her awake.
Stopping only to drop the rucksack off her shoulders and chuck her purse on the bed, Claire fell forwards and lost herself to oblivion.