I woke up this morning, dehydrated and sore, reeling from a magical and intense night. With 18 others I walked from Broadcasting Place in Leeds north, through the city, into the suburbs and surrounding countryside, over fields, creek, river and road to the rocky outcrop of Almscliffe Crag.
July 1st 2015 was the hottest day on record. That’s the UK’s hottest July 1st ever. It was hotter than Rome and Athens. These city names are exotic words that Northern European uses to describe spaces of shade seeking brightness, dust, icy drinks and windows wide open, not the usual Yorkshire describing of spaces.
Nevertheless, we walked out of Leeds in sweltering heat that followed us until the sun fell away behind Eccup Reservior. Warm air continued through hours of rolling, changing landscapes. The light crept away as our big ball turned, revealing a fat, orange moon that rose and rose and followed us into the fields along the River Wharfe. The Wharfe Valley sweeps down from North Yorkshire, the weather bouncing back and forth off the hills, rolling down the valley like wild tumbling animals. On this hot night it brought lightning that lit up the sky so that we could momentarily see Almscliffe Crag in the distance. ‘How far is that? It looks far.’ ‘Oh, a few more miles I think...’
In the grounds of Harewood House black shadow deer moved through nighttime fields. Cows, horses and sheep stirred as our line of chatter and sporadic lights snaked through their nighttime worlds.
Hours and miles past, introductions made, conversations had, shared water and sandwiches, maps read, pictures taken. Connection through our shared journey, our shared desire for a shifting of perspective.
Then today I woke up to this poem:
lie back lie back and let
those waves move through you-
you may as well be on the sea-
look at the ceiling and recall the skies,
skies that have moved you.
they are out there somewhere.
sunlight melting through green leaves,
hiding places and sweet sounds
surrounding all ears.
open dark eternal skies
so full of stars you could explode
with all that light.
how many unknown eyes
at this very night?
northern light skin
whispers silent streaks.
lightning magic skies
fireflies on summer nights.
quiet, leaves & distant laughter.
feeling the ground
blind in dark with feet that know
each toe’s sense & purchase.
no more need to look down.
My sister, a poet who is spending Summer 2015 lying in her bed sleeping off the poison that is the remedy for a cancer, writes of her longing for immersion in summer’s essential nature. She weaves the metaphors of our communion with each other with this living, breathing Earth. Her desire to walk, to feel the ground of our spinning home is palatable (your connection isn’t severed, Kerry. You’ll soon again be lost in the glorious thick of it.)
What do we gain from getting lost? Our senses are awakened in the darkness by that which is forgotten or unexpected. Our perspective shifts, stimulated by surprise and the unfamiliar. This enables us to recognize that our navigators don’t always know where they’re going and our maps can’t always show us our path (easy to be poetic in hindsight – luckily for me the map readers continued to read the map and pointed us in the right direction).
Sometimes we have to smell our way, to watch the sky for signs. Sometimes we can rely on the kindness of strangers (and they way they might come outside in their nightgowns to scold us for filling our water bottles from their taps only to invite us into the kitchen for refills, hug us, then show us the path we seek). Our children might show us that although they are 9 and 10 they are brave and adventurous creatures who can walk wildly into the night through 13 miles of the unknown.
Strangers, colleagues, and friends can become a joyful group with shared purpose as our external landscape mingles with our internal one, our internal and external experiences becoming shared. Our feet and thoughts, travelling and meandering together to the top of the hill: YOU ARE HERE.