What’s next?

Photograph of path through fields and a hill in the distance at sunset

A reflection from late autumn finally posted in the chill of early January. Call it late, call it a symptom of these new year days and pandemic years, when time seems to slip and slide and leave you grasping.

I’m not sure if this moment is full on autumn, or the first bite of winter. We left town for the hills one Sunday. Clocks claimed it was mid-afternoon but the oncoming dark made it hard to place, hard to shake the sense of enclosing night. Given the hour, I say ‘hills’ but really it was ‘hill’. One hill. Height enough to let go every sigh and find the corners of ourselves that the countryside seems to guard in our absence. Our feet found one hill, but maybe it really was ‘hills’. One folds into another, a ridge that you could follow on your way to the Cotswolds, or turn the other way to skirt the edge of London. We stay where we are. On one hill. Eyes resting on another, and finding the pocketed fields below.  

We left. Left the warmth, encased ourselves in winter coats (should have been washed before this first wearing?), scarves, hats that didn’t quite keep out the gnaw of the wind on one side. An ear bore the brunt of this foray. Pass indifferent flocks, turn right at the trees and enjoy their shelter before heading up again. A slope that felt gentle but, on turning round, had opened up the sunset sky. Stop. Breathe. Exchange humble notes on this messy and beautiful world. 

There haven’t been a lot of moments like this in recent weeks. My landscape has been mostly virtual, my body mostly stationary. Twelve-hour days at the screen as I worked with friends from around the world, brought together by the UN climate talks in Glasgow. It was a time when we saw some steps forward, but they were few and small compared to the scale of the emergency. And they left the communities at the frontline of this crisis still calling for justice. So much work left undone; so much to do next. 

It’s darker now on this hill. We have come full circle, turn for the house we now call home. It’s been six weeks since we lifted the last of our roots in south-west London and settled ourselves in a Hampshire town with a few friends and some unrefined ideas for the future. After two weeks here we built a compost heap. By four weeks, there were pictures on the wall. Maybe tomorrow I will message a new friend, suggest a walk along just familiar streets. Maybe it will be the next day. 

In the meantime, a few more crisped leaves will line the road. I will sit at a new-to-me desk in front of a generations-old window. Open a notebook, turn my face to the sun while the cold gnaws my ankles (refusing feet-trapping socks for as long as I can bear it). Flex a wasted muscle, and find words for the page. If you knock on this front door, you may find me dreaming. 

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