A Walk in the Rain.
Every now and then I get to the point where I’ve had enough. Often I can’t bear to be near anyone, and I feel as if one more ‘Muuum, can I have a drink’ will turn me into a screaming ball of fury.
At times like these I just sling my coat on, put my boots on, open the front door, take a deep breath of fresh air and shout over my shoulder – ‘I’m just off for a quick walk, back in half an hour’. And then I’m off.
Tramp, tramp, tramp up the hill. Even if the wind whips my face, the rain splatters on my glasses and the skies are grey, I’m off. Past the top of the terrace block, feet stomping on the paving slabs, onto the tarmac, over the road- up the hill. Walking with a purpose, same old route, usually the same old issues running around my head.
I pass the old cement works surrounded by metal fencing overgrown with brambles, nettles and straggly clumps of field grass. Onwards, upwards, determined to escape the house. At this time of year there’s often sparrows in the eaves, twittering a little, and the croak of a crow somewhere out of sight in the fields. The air is always fresh and my nose tingles if it’s cold.
Without fail I look upwards to the sky to see what the clouds are doing. It always amazes me that each and every single day the sky is painted differently. Bubbling Cumulus Nimbus or Strata flattened and drawn out like wool ready to be wound, or even better a mackerel sky undulating like sand left behind when the tide has gone out.
With a steady pace I mount the rise of the hill, carefully making sure I keep an ear and an eye out for cars. The country road winds around the corner and I always stay close to the hedgerows and the crumbling stone walls. Slowly the grip of the house loosens, and I feel myself looking outwards and away from my frustrations. I’m terrible with the names of trees and plants, but I try to remember them. Failing that I remember where nature leaves its footprints – the mottled light and dark green moss that carpets the old stones, the tree where I spotted a nest tucked up in its branches last year, the egg-shell blue patch of Harebells – each familiar old sight reassures me that the world is carrying on as it should.
The frustrations that drove me from the house are then examined in detail and I often rant inwardly. Conversations are replayed, situations pulled apart, plans are made, tears mix with drizzle, I think a lot. Each step helps to calm my torn up and inflamed thoughts. There is nothing more calming than the sound of my own footsteps and the crunch of stones ground beneath my determined feet.
Walking brings me sanity and as I draw my eyes over each familiar lump and bump of the hillside I feel free again. Free of the curse of the house, the mess, the shrinking terrifying four walls. If I’m lucky I catch a sunset tinged with a orange and red, Pendle hill outlined with silver as the sun drops below the horizon.
The other day I saw a hawk circling overhead, looping over the fields looking for prey. It looked as if it was tied to an invisible string hooked on a cloud. Swinging through the skies, the wind whistling through its feathers, a fantastic sight.
I always pause at the top of the hill even if there’s high winds and driving rain, to see the view of my town, Blacko Tower, Pendle hill, the dilapedated youth centre, the clock tower and the road snaking up the other side of the valley. It’s always the same view, but there’s always something new to see. The seasons change and the trees look either bare or flush with greenery and blackthorn blooms at the right time of year, drifting along branches like snow.
After I’ve paused for a minute I carry on, ocassionally meeting a dog walker who I take a quick glance at and mutter ‘Evenin!’ to. I once saw someone in one of those elaborate covered wheelchairs like a car, walking with 3 Lhaso Apso dogs. It looked like a bizarre chariot being pulled along by three small fluffy horses. I reckoned if he ran out of batteries they’d probably be able to pull him along if they tried hard enough.
Down the hill I go, skirting the ditches so I don’t accidentally slither into them. There’s a small outcrop of houses on my right which I always look longingly at. They must have been weavers cottages once of a day. One has roses around the door and I swear it has my name on it. I can dream can’t I? To my left the open fields rustle as the gusts of wind roll across the grass.
Over the old stone bridge, where I stand a while to see if there’s any ducks waddling around, hoping for ducklings in late spring. They’re always a pleasure to see, splashing around in the shallows or dutifully bobbing along after their mums. Someone has carved a short section of
‘In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.’
into one of the huge slabs on the narrow path over this bridge. It’s weathered but still readable, I do wonder why someone took the time to do that. I love the way it makes me stop and think every time I pass that way.
Without much hope I scan the weedy, rushing river for otters. I’ve never seen any but I’ve been told they hang around down there. Once I saw a stoat or a weasel clambering around on the gravelly shore. It stood, stock still and stared back at me. Long, lithe, dark brown and white bellied; I suppose it was nearly an otter, close enough for me anyway.
By this point the rain has often soaked down my neck and I’ve run out of dry clothing to wipe my glasses on. I pick up the pace a bit and pass the pub and the kid’s playground – thankful I don’t have to stop there for once. It’s always tempting to have a go on the zipwire if no-one’s looking but I’ve resisted so far.
Back up between a huddle of terraced houses, along a stream where I often find myself wanting to pick up the abandoned beer cans and sweet wrappers and I’m on the homeward stretch. Often I’ll take the route that goes by the street where I spent my early 20’s and remember with a wry grin some of the things that went on. In spring I can still see the Snowdrops I planted in one of the front gardens. That patch was so overgrown with buttercups, weeds and dandylions ten years ago. It’s all neat and tidy now. You see, one afternoon I just had enough of staring at the weeds, so I put my welly boots on, thought ‘sod the mucky fingernails’ and dragged them all out. Knee deep in churned up mud, I eventually got rid of them all. I stil remember the smug feeling of having tamed my unruly green patch of garden.
By now my boots are usually a tad muddy, so I stomp a little harder to shake loose bits off and then turn the corner and trudge back up the steep hill once again. I can see home from here, and with each step I get closer to feeling trapped again. A couple of promises and reassurances kick in around now: ‘I will cope’ ‘I will do better’ ‘I will work harder’ ‘It’s not so bad’ richochet around my brain and then I’m finally back on my doorstep.
I hold the door handle in my freezing cold hand, open it and I’m home again – in the midst of tv noise, warmth, chattering kids, school bags slung on the sofa, the waft of food simmering in the kitchen. Sausage wraps his arms around my legs and yammers on about Spiderman, Darlek thrusts her school book into my hands and tells me it ‘has to be read’ and everything I left when I walked out the door is back again. The only difference is that I can cope now, for a little while longer. With an understanding half smile, Horace offers to put the kettle on and I’m reminded that I’m loved.
As long as I can escape to the hills and walk alongside the river under a wide open sky – I know everything is going to be ok. I can return to where I started and see things afresh. A walk in the rain keeps me sane, something like that. :O)