CHAOS AND SHIMMERING BEAUTY

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What is it about snow? Just as it has the power to cause chaos, this quality brings along unexpected peace and harmony. Waking to the promised sub-zero temperatures, the snow view from the bedroom window was stunning.

Heavy clouds shimmered in their purple hues, ladened with more snow. Through them pierced the morning sun, a thin spotlight of warmth, a glimmering sign of a new day. Ethereal colours danced all around.

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Outside the birds flocked thankfully to the full feeder, and with quiet gratitude I watched their morning repast whilst contentedly eating my own. A breakfast usually rushed for work and school took on a life of its own and was one that just did not want to end. Ninety minutes later my soul was satiated from the busy flutterings, my stomach was full with berries, yogurt, granola. The outside beckoned!

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With perfect timing the sun appeared as I strode around the nature reserve. Total and absolute silence, apart from the satisfying crunch of snow with every step. The crushed implosion seeming to reverberate across the landscape. Otherwise not a sound. No birdsong. No a single car engine noise. Just a few solitary walkers, some children on their sledges and snow scooters.

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Gently winding its way round the wood, I follow the path from memory, gazing across to the small lakes. Their frozen surface is not one I’d trust to walk out on, however tempting!

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Ahead, a welcoming bench is covered in white and the usual seat for contemplation is reluctantly passed by … until another warmer day!

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The church stands out gloriously in its winter setting, a perfect Dickensian feel and it’s timeless nature makes me stop in awe. A church on this site since Norman times, the additions are clearly visible. Recalling the stained glass windows from Ely I’ve always wondered what happened to the ones here. Later I learn they broke and were never replaced with such wonders, alas!

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As I turned to home, the walk suddenly became a trek across the arctic tundra, a howling bitter wind fought a battle across the landscape. With my head bowed and fingers riddled with frost bite (or so I imagine) I slip-slide my way through the soft depths of snow, gazing at the ripples of white powder, perfect peaks across the fields. I trudge on wearily, relentlessly, the thought of a welcoming hot chocolate whinching me home.

SOLVITUR AMBULANDO – IT IS SOLVED BY WALKING

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My brain is ensnared. My eyes dart to the bright sunlight and soon my toes tap the floor restlessly, itching to move. Now my body is begging for the the outside, the fresh air, the sun.

Inwardly I simultaneously groan and cheer. The battle is over – work can wait, it’s time for a walk!

Do you ever suffer from the same turmoil? Do you need a walking break now and then? If so, put down your pens, push your keyboards aside and join me as I stride out on a local walk – I’d love your company.

Luckily this is a walk from my doorstep and after a quick stroll past the pretty gardens of the neighbouring houses, I cross the main road. Soon the peace of the countryside surrounds me.

Deftly (I wish!) climbing over the wooden stile, I avoid a rotten board. My sudden squeal of pain surprises even myself as nettles spike my bare legs and I stamp about in a ridiculous fashion as if this would soothe the stinging.

Golden Shades of Wheat field

Golden Shades of Wheat field

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Ahead stretches a vast wheat field. A lush sea of colour, from burnished bronze to light yellow to green of fresh new growth languidly rustle in the breeze. The myriad of golden shades sway back and forth in great swathes, the soft shimmering ripples creating soft music as the full ears of corn move together.

Runway Streaks

Runway Streaks

In one place two light green parallel lines of wheat stretch far into the distance, as if lighting a runway for planes above. Where did they come from? The mystery buzzes around my mind as I try to spot the crop circles which usually appear as if by magic amongst the golden mass. No such wonder today. They’re always fascinating. Nature’s art. Or is it a small alien landing craft? I smile to myself at my mind’s musings.

In front of me looms my marker; a lone oak tree perfectly outlined against the golden field and the sheer blue sky. On a warm day as today the fully grown tree offers welcome cooling shade.

Lone Oak Tree

Lone Oak Tree

Years ago, when my son was young it was a fun obstacle as we chased each other round and round the thick trunk. At first, when I could easily have caught him, I’d ‘stumble’ and let his tiny hands grab my legs. Then when he was older I ran for all my worth until dizziness overtook me. I’d stumble and after letting me think I’m winning my son would catch me, save me. Life’s full circle.

Dry Earth Cracks

Dry Earth Cracks

A right turn in the path and as I traverse the bone dry ground, carefully stepping between the deep cracks I glimpse the church ahead. Standing alone in its dignity and history. The Medieval and later Tudor addition creating a beautiful serene building. I approach it through the lych gate, the church to my right, the cemetery to my left. Built in 1435, the church is much as it was, with the original Nave, East Window and main heavy wooden double doors all intact.

The lych gate was built in 1919 and was originally the place where corpses lay before being brought into the church, hence the engraving above of  ‘Mors Annua Vitae’ – ‘Death is the gateway to life’.

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I wander around the cemetery, deep in thought, seeking solace for my own losses. Stopping I read an inscription or two. There lies William Beck ‘Gamekeeper to Basil Sparrow Esq’, the gravestone put up by the latter in January 1860 to his ‘courageous and faithful servant who died from wounds caused by the accidental discharge of his gun…’

As I stop at a grave here and there I’ll say out the name out aloud, hoping to honour the person, hoping to revive meaning behind the utterance.

Village cemetery

Village cemetery

Writing is never far from me and I scan the names for inspiration for stories or perhaps to find a name to fit in a piece of fiction writing. This was the case with my winning short story, where my main female character’s name was discovered at a cemetery. (By the way, that particular story will soon be featured on my blog.)

I pause at one particular grave. For a baby girl who fleetingly visited this earth for a day. She was born healthy and strong but died seventeen hours later from cot death. I knew her mother well as our sons were best friends and the tragedy shook us all.

So I continue my walk, thoughts drifting on life and death, as always the two intermingled, inevitable.

Walks and thoughts.  As I stride across another field I lose my conscious self as an internal discussion rages in my head, this is distilled into peaceful reflections and new ideas swirl into being. As if in a transcendental meditation I wander on and in a shock I discover myself far from my last conscious position. The inner concentration of brain storming so powerful the ‘real’ world takes second place to the inner world. With my brain cleansed, with ideas stored safely for my return, I continue feeling clearer, lighter, brighter. My feelings echo Bill Bryson’s words on walking ‘…you exist in a kind of mobile Zen mode, your brain like a balloon tethered with string, accompanying but not actually part of the body below…’

To my left now is the regal Elizabethan hall with its stunning Georgian front. Now a country home hosting grand weddings it formerly saw Elizabeth I and her retinue as its regular visitors. Built in 1544 with major reconstructions in 1691 and 1715 its features include a spectacular central courtyard.

Georgian Front to the Hall

Georgian Front to the Hall

Tudor Back to Hall (formerly the front)

Tudor Back to Hall (formerly the front)

I remember the lovely afternoon one Sunday when it opened for visitors and it felt a wonder to be served scones and tea in such special surroundings. One Christmas the local primary school children walked up to the hall and enjoyed lunch in the ornate wooden banqueting hall. Overawed the pupils were silenced – for a moment. Imagine, eating in the former residence of King Louis VXII and his wife and their 350 courtiers!

Hall Courtyard

Hall Courtyard

By now sweltering from the heat I welcome the shade from the avenue of trees heading back to the village centre. The wind sweeps along the straight and gently caresses my tired legs. Treading on the road I am still astonished at its surface, the one originally laid by American troops during World War Two, as it led to the local airfield. It must have endured so much heavy traffic in those few years alone but is still going strong.

It was many years before the USA Airforce left the area I’m reminded as I halt by the memorial plaque of an American pilot killed as his plane crashed into the village playing field in 1963. As the F100 Super Saber jet developed an engine fault Col Wendell Kelly heroically chose to stay with the plane to ensure it avoided the local school. When certain the plane would crash away from civilians he did eject, but too late to save his own life. Recently a 50th commemoration service in his honour was held in the village and it was lovely that his daughter and other family members from America could attend.

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The very same playing field in use today by children and adults, for football matches, cricket matches, fetes. For years I watched my son and his friends charge across the sun-scorched grass, heading full pelt towards the playground. More sedately I walk towards the shop, the field quiet and empty as I recall the yelps of joy as the children were let out of class.

I’m here now. At the local shop, which is run by a team of dedicated volunteers. Time for a break. What will you have? Tea? Coffee? Ice-cream? Yes, I’ll take one of those thank you. Let’s sit out on the table. Yes, just that one there, the one with the red geranium precariously standing on it.

Village pavillion with local shop tucked next to it

Village pavillion with local shop tucked next to it

Now silence, peace. Time to be thankful. Time to reflect.  Tired my legs ache for a rest. Refreshed my fingers itch to write. Alert my brain is brimming with new ideas and plans. I’m off home and back to my writing.

The final stretch of the walk takes me through the dappled shade of the Nature Reserve. Once a gravel quarry it has been developed since the 1960s into a local area of beauty with three large lakes and rich woodland. A bench beckons by the  water’s edge but determined I go on my way, greeting the ducks who are paddling near by. I’ll be back later with some bread later, I promise them. At last I spy the house located only a few metres from the Nature Reserve and again marvel at the ideal location.

One of the lakes at the Nature Reserve

One of the lakes at the Nature Reserve

Felled tree in Nature Reserve

Felled tree in Nature Reserve

Well, the walk is over and I want to thank you for joining me. I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have.

‘Solvitur and ambulando – it is solved by walking.’

By St. Augustine