I have pockets filled with gold
When I walk these paths with you
The pieces jingle and sing
And remind me I’m a rich man
Every year she encroaches a little more, tests her nerve and reclaims another half foot or so. They can’t fight her off like they used to – it’s a full-time job and they’re only part-time there so we can’t see the house from the village anymore. Like in the older days after the long ride we’re reach that exact point by the church where the hills opened up for a brief moment and there it’d be, Cracker Ridge, high enough up to catch the rain as snow and in the middle, white against green, Cracker Cottage. At Christmas the house would be all lit up and fairy lights wrapped around the conifers, I would slow to pick it out and we’d be warmed before the big climb.
It’s too much now and nature has tipped the scales in her own favour. From the road there is nothing but green hillside and the untamed branches squeal along the side of the car as we nudge up the drive. It has been a long time. One whole lockdown and a little more since we were up at Cracker and after the rain and shine of the past few weeks there is a burgeoning that has run out of control.
Maybe we only notice it because we have snapshots at intervals; we notice the narrowing of the path to the front door and the loss of view from the front. We’re not used to a view like this so we seek it out the minute we’ve dropped out bags; we look back the way that we’ve come and capture between out finger and thumb that valleys that we passed through an hour ago.
It’s only the human things that are decaying: the wooden deck that pokes out into the space between here and home; the gate at the bottom of the steep drive that hangs now on its hinges; the old barns that are help up only by what’s inside. Nature – she’s doing ok. In fact, in this place she’s not done so well for a century or more. But old eyes don’t see these things; old eyes that see the same thing every day and see only by the tiniest degrees, the slow approach of the wild that taps now on the window when the autumn breeze picks up. I wonder if one day I will come and have to carve through this jungle to get to the side door. I expect that I would find them huddled in the centre of the room while vines poke down the chimney and the windows are darkened by the rhododendron bushes and branches thick as a child’s arm.
It’s how it will be, I’m fairly sure of it. They will not move unless sealed tight in a box and I think they have made their peace with that idea. The run they have had has been a good one and we have caught the best of it. I suppose we cannot complain if we suck out what juice we can find and resist the urge to ask for more. It is this and this is enough. The girls play with the dogs in the field and the startled sheep huddle together and take turns to be in the middle of the huddle like penguins. They have not seem movement like this for a long time up here and in their little brains it is alien and a threat The girls squeal to be free; to be out of the lockdown bubble, finally
We could not be further from the bubble here. We are so far that we cannot even see the circles that pulse and grow – even with a view like this one. The route home is a winding one that skirts these places along the back roads. This evening we will sneak back under the covers and Lullaby Ridge will be a dream again.