In a few days I run northwards again for the monthly meeting of the Silent Eye. Since the birth of the school I have been blessed with the opportunity to point the car northwards every few weeks. Before that it had been the best part of twenty years since I had been able to spend any time there. So to be able to finally return so often to a place that holds my heart has left me with a deep well of emotion. Much of it gratitude.
I had yearned for the moors and hillsides with a longing that had become so much a part of me I couldn’t have separated it out had I tried. And now I get to go back and feed my soul. Each visit is touched with utter perfection. No matter how pretty it is down here in the south… and it is admittedly very beautiful… there is something in the northern skies and the hillsides, something in the way people say good morning as they pass, something in the accent and dialect… something that is Home and that pulls at the heartstrings, triggering a deep longing to return that had never eased.
Springtime was bad as a rule… the moors exert a powerful attraction in spring as the nascent life eases hesitantly out into the uncertain warming of the year. Summer you know will be beautiful with the tenuous sunshine on the heather, a haze of purple as far as the eye can see. Autumn is an orgy of ochre and scarlet as the colours blaze for a final moment of glory before the pall of winter shrouds the landscape. Winter can be wild, it is stark, hard and monochrome… but is wonderful.
Here in the central south everything seemed remote. The sky too far away to touch, people seldom speak to strangers; there is much beauty but no wildness. I felt isolated from the world, from its folk and, for a very long time, from the landscape too. I had felt anonymous, unseen even to myself as parts of me that knew life keenly in the high places faded into a faceless anonymity, cocooned in a grey normality that blurred the sharp edges and softened the contrasts of being alive.
It was not until the landscape of Albion came to life for me, after Uffington that first weekend when Stuart came to visit… and long before we understood the adventure that was beginning to unfold … that I began to really see the landscape here and realise that there is no border between north and south… the barrier was simply in me. A barrier that was lifted by the wings of kites as we began the journey of writing The Initiate together, telling the story of what was being shown to us in wonderand which, incredibly, continues.
But even so, the moors still call. The wildness is magical. There is an intimacy about the north that invades every pore, working its way into the heart, a silent breath of cold air that clears the fog of mediocrity in which it is too easy to lose oneself and founder. It is a landscape of absolutes and extremes and it demands that same response from the heart and mind. It galvanises Being.
Many do not understand that apparent desolation of the moors and mountains. They cannot see the extremes of passionate life in the barrenness that clings like lichen to the riven rocks or crouches against the wild wind like a tree grasping for a foothold in stone. Many respond better to the welcoming warmth of a greener England, one of manicured fields and tended hedgerows, thatched roofs and picture book villages. Each of us must follow the call of the inner heart where it leads and there is more than one way to light up a soul.
For me the moors of the north are home. No matter where I live, where life, circumstance or service need me to be. For me there is both absoluteness and absolution in the wild hills. Leaving them behind still carries a wrench of separation and the drive south is often made through a mist of tears but these days with a joy in the heart that sings because I have walked my hills again.
I can’t help it. I’m a Yorkshire lass with heather in the blood.