Monday, 8 December 2008

The familiar becomes unfamiliar

As the fog concertinas the landscape, so trusted horizons are lost and the countryside takes on a very different feel. With no sense of any real distance it is the closest hedgerows and trees that draw the eye, their bare limbs and branches stark against the flat sky becoming two-dimensional in appearance. The ragged-winged forms of Rooks materialise from the gloom and pass overhead like fragments of black cloth on an unfelt breeze. Sounds, too, are diminished, muffled by the fog, and I feel I am submerged within an unfamiliar landscape. For some reason such days suggest a more ancient countryside, a land of wet fens and wild woods, and I half expect to see the dark shapes of lost tribes emerge from the fog; perhaps a shadowy band of Vikings, fresh from their victory over Edmund. It is a strange feeling to experience but in some way it is also reassuring to feel some connection back through time with those who must also have passed over this land many centuries ago.

These damp days of early winter often bring with them a sense of melancholy that I find hard to shake. Perhaps it is the damp itself and the way in which its chill penetrates through layers of clothing to reach the bone within. More likely, it is the lack of the sun and its warming rays, rays that on a brighter winter’s day would lift my mood. While I feel hemmed in by the shortened horizons and deafened by the silence, my sense of smell is alive to the odours that are magnified by the damp and decay around me. I can smell the scent of leaf-mould as well as the more earthy odours of fungi, and a Fox that must have cut across the track some hours before.

In many ways I feel that I am experiencing my local patch anew; the familiar views have changed so much because of the fog that I almost lose my bearings. Certain trees gain in importance, appearing larger and more imposing now that they have been separated from their background. The fog also serves to shorten the day and it feels like late afternoon, even though it is not yet time for lunch. Elsewhere, the blocks of plantation forest seem more threatening, their dark depths more foreboding and devoid of life. Even so, it is good to view this familiar part of my landscape in a way that is new, to feel uncertain about an area that I so often take for granted. While the presence of the fog has unsettled me, it has also forced me to look at things in a different way and sometimes this is a good thing.

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