I set out around the loop of road that circles the headland I live on late in the day not expecting more than some fresh air and to stretch my legs. It was not an evening that bludgeoned the senses with a Technicolor display but a plain evening that provided a canvas for the thoughts, that allowed the mind to stretch, to consider possibilities. A day-long layer of low cloud had diffused the light and deepened the twilight. Once the sun sank, the western sky became a pale blue-white, stained and sun-yellowed at the edges, grey fingers of cloud drifting from the east. The wind was fresh but not too raw. I passed the farm, the hard road caked with dried mud, my footsteps ‘tapping secrecies of stone’ as Patrick Kavanagh wrote in another season, another county. The farm smell hit me, its pungency unexpected in this chill month.
January. The descent into darkness has been reversed: this much we know consciously, but the unfolding of this knowledge takes its time, creeping incrementally down into an ancient and visceral part of ourselves in the same way that the light increases incrementally by the day, its luminosity gradually awakening the ‘mole in the soul’ to the new year.
I brush by last years bracken in the ditch and they rattle a sabre-like call to arms as if rallying the troops for the season to come. In the cool half-light I turn the corner of the loop, passing the caravan park and the road down to woods, which, caught in a tiny fold of the headland, is dark now. The road slopes gently up, past an old barn and opens out towards the western sky. The smell from the ditches is rich and grassy, reminding me of my childhood when I spent my free days roaming over the fields with my gang, splashing through streams, setting up house under hedges, eating pretend meals of dock leaves, returning late in the day tired and fresh at once. Those fields lie under housing estates now.
Further along, accompanied now by bird song, the last hurrah of the day, I pass the pillars in their field, beyond the barbed wire. They have begun to glow white in the dying day. A bright star-Venus I think-is rising in the south-west. The wind freshens and sways the tall reeds in the ditch and as I near home the smell of smoke from a neighbours’ chimney drifts into my nostrils and I know that whatever weather winter may still fling at us, Spring, inexorable as always, is on its way.