Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Depe Croix Dale III

But down in the depe croix dale the passing of the Brawn is as yesterday. The oak and beech mast lie in piles in the boles of huge trees, swift black deer run through the golden carpet of leaves and high above rooks and carrion crows wheel in the bright sun light. The valley is silent and still, walking through it is like entering a vast, deserted cathedral. I climb the steep bank to my right, slipping and sliding in the leaf-drifts until I gain the small ledge at the foot of the cliffs. From here one can see clearly down the dale, the slow quiet stream cutting its way through the bottom, swathes of green rising in the spring of the year. The place is holy and still. I walk slowly and quietly, drinking in the silence of the deep places. Here there is no sign of man, no litter, no footprints, no noise. I am alone in a place that few people know even exists and fewer have troubled to visit. I am off the beaten track, I have traveled backwards and I look on things as they once were.
Picking my way slowly along the base of the cliffs, beneath the overhanging slabs of pale orange stone I wonder, as those who have explored these hidden and secret places have always wondered, what lies above. I find a suitable place in the cliff and begin to ascend, partly climbing partly scrambling I rise further and further until clambering over bramble covered boulders I attain a small shelf of rock. This is the true sanctuary, the holy of holies and a place where one can leap backwards off the edge of modernity into the lost times. I feel safe and enveloped. Deep in a notched pocket high on the cliff wall I look down on the woodland below, I see the silver of the beck reflecting the bright sun, a glittering serpent of shining light 200 feet below me. I hear the oceanic rumble of the wind as it blows through the tree tops level with my eyes, sometimes still sometimes roaring it passes me by without venturing into my cove. Around me the trees that cling high to the beetling cliffs are stunted and bonsied, twisting knotted oaks writhe out wraithlike into the abyss, curling yews slither outwards, their trunks making wild twists and turns.
Here I am suspended between earth and sky. Above and behind me the wind carved rock shows gleaming bands of orange and red, small holes and cracks in the cliff face hide owls and hawks. I have the pleasure of looking down on the woodland from above, out over the tree tops as they sway in the wind. When one walks in a wood it is difficult to appreciate the movement and vitality of trees, up here it is evident and poetic. I watch courting chaffinches as they roll and tumble through the branches beneath me and see a small pack of great tits hunt insects along branches. I sit in still silent solitude for hours. The rock warmed by the sun, the white clouds floating across a blue sky. I am immersed in the life of the woodland. I close my eyes and feel the wind as it blows over me. I keep my eyes closed for a very long time, I focus on my hearing, picking out the calls of birds, the hum of insects and the creak of swaying trees. I hear the stealthy crunch of the deer I had disturbed earlier as they make their way back up the valley below me – if the deep leaf-litter makes it hard for me to walk silently it makes it equally hard for the deer. As I sit with my eyes closed I hear the fluttering whir of a small pale tree creeper as it flies onto the stunted airborne yew to my right. I open my eyes and watch as it inspects me for a moment. I am so close I can see the sharp downward curve of its delicate bill and its wide-splayed toes. It looks at me without moving then satisfied it begins its spiral course along the tree in quick jerky movements.
There is nothing of Man here. No thing. Nothing to recall the modern world. I am isolated in space and time. I have found one of the doors that still open between the worlds and having passed through I am taken away through the heart of the slumbering hills to the Tole Deol. I have glimpsed, like shadows behind reality, the dim shapes and outlines of the land that no longer is. I have heard the beastlike worshippers howling with their heads in the dust. In this High Place I have washed away the present and restored the past and caused even the hills, the forests and the rivers to resume their ancient aspect and to scorn the errors of civilisation.

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