© 2020-2021 Paul Mobbs; released under the Creative Commons license.
Created: Sunday 1st March 2020; updated 16th February 2021
Length: ~700 words
The intention was to leave the camera in the pack, but the awakening of the Spring demanded its removal – the birds singing loudly in the hedgerows of the ancient Roman road.
Out to the fringe, the ‘perimeter’, regularly walking the tracks that border the town as I increase the weight of my pack in readiness for the backpacking season. Today I've upped the load from 10kg to 12.5kg for the coming week or two. The intention was just for a little ‘exercise’ to prepare my legs and back to go camping in April; nothing more.
What with work, and reduced working capacity due to my eyes, I haven’t had the time to take photos – or rather, to get them on-line even if I took them. For weeks now the camera has stayed in the pack, as ballast, though given the weather perhaps that’s not such a bad thing.
Reorganising my pack to accommodate the extra weight meant that I just missed the sunset from Crouch Hill (as in the film ‘Jaws’, I suddenly realised that, “We’re gonna’ need a bigger pack!”). No matter.
I pause for a while to look at the view, and then slide my way down to its base and glide (literally) across the liquid mud into the Roman lane, Salt Way. As the sky darkens from the East behind me the Moon and Venus come into view, but no stars – yet.
I find myself riffing on a track from Jim Morrison's ‘An American Prayer’:
“Soft driven, slow and mad, like some new language.
Reaching your head with the cold, sudden fury of a divine messenger.
Let me tell you about heartache and the loss of god.
Wandering, wandering in hopeless night.
Out here in the perimeter there are no stars.
Out here we is stoned, immaculate!”
Jim Morrison, ‘Stoned Immaculate’
Actually what’s blissing me out right now isn’t mind altering alcohol or cannabinoids, it’s bird song!
I hadn't intended to take any photos, but in the end the rousing welcome of the birds’ evening chorus demands that I take my camera from the pack and start recording the transition from dusk to twilight.
I soon realise that I have to start making a video; photos might covey the slow shift in colours from dusk to twilight, but they can’t capture the cacophony of robins, tits, and blackbirds that are its accompanying soundtrack.
The Spring is really here; very early.
First day of March and, actually for the last week or so, you can see that the nests are beginning to form in the still-bare branches of the budding trees. Crows and perhaps a pair of buzzards have started to take possession of some of the larger trees hereabouts. The blackthorn has been in flower for a week or so, but in the last week the leaves of the elder and hawthorn have flushed. And at their base, cow parsley, nettles, and hedge garlic are sprouting to the point there they might be worth harvesting for a meal.
I too feel a stirring of late. After a year of finding a new balance after eye surgery I think I might be able to find some space to start recording my walks once more. I met a friend in Oxford station a few weeks ago who lamented the lack of photographs. Though if I do start once more, I have a feeling it may be somewhat different. I am not what I was 15 months ago; the necessity to pair down what I do to the most essential means my focus has shifted.
I turn at Giant's Caves and head back into town. It’s so dark now that the cars rushing down Broughton Road dazzle me with their lights, blinding me to the wet muddy holes in the path around my feet. Back in town all is quiet; for once, quieter than it was out in the countryside!