As we headed towards our next destination on Saturday for the Harvest of Being weekend, I was thinking of the national anthem. No, not ‘God save the Queen’. This is Yorkshire… we have our own.
It is a little more prosaic than the official anthem, possibly a little more grisly, and definitely more down to earth. It tells of the dangers of going up on Ilkley Moor without a hat… bah’t ‘at… and the likelihood of invoking a cycle of life that is pretty much inescapable. Not something that would affect my companion, whose feral, furry headpiece adorned the back seat of the car. And anyway, he’s from Lancashire.
The song is, sadly, fading in the way of many traditions as the modern, multimedia world takes over but most folk will know at least a little of the song and some of us do not forget the lyrics or the story. It tells of how a young man goes to woo Mary Jane, up on the moor without a hat. He will, it is told, catch his death of cold and have to be buried; the worms will then eat him. The ducks take their turn and eat the worms, then we, of course, eat the ducks thus ensuring that we ‘get our own back.’ Unsung but implicit is the fact that the story could then start all over again as life, death and decay fuel new life and the cycle of life continues.
This year I have seen the seasons turn on the moors and this is my fourth visit. I have watched them change from winter to spring, blossoming through summer and now fading towards autumn. Nothing can stop that inexorable wheel in its motion, any more than we can stop the years from turning. Leaving the museum and the church with their evidence of the unstoppable march of time we headed for a place where we were going to do something that would, in a way, make a pause in the normal, everyday world.
We cannot slow the years or arrest the natural order, perhaps, but what we can do is take each moment and colour it in ways that make it stand out from its siblings, marking itself in memory as if a paintbrush was running through our lives, colouring vivid the mediocre grey that can be the minutiae of our lives.
I wonder what the resulting mosaic would look like?