This morning, early, as I was driving back towards the west, low cloud rolled in. All was clear on the east side but as I drove towards the sun breaking over the eastern hills, behind me, silently flowing along the land, filling ditches and hollows, a bank of fog had swallowed the land.
I knew none of it, my mind full of spring and bulb shoots in the roadside verges, and the smell of the earth coming to life, risking defeat in later wintry weather but nonetheless itching to get going. I was thinking of how few times we see these changes; how many fewer when you’re new to a place and have – if you’re very lucky – ten years, possibly twenty, left to feel the earth turning towards summer.
With the sun behind me on the way back, trailing long shadows from the south-east, the hill line looked different. The landscape had changed, geology re-written. It was difficult to see what was wrong in the warming morning air rising from the heather, but when we stopped for a traffic light – there are none in these islands, so meeting one always means roadworks, always a wait – I could see the shape of the hills changing as cloud cream poured over the hills and drooled across fields sloping towards the sea.
Encroaching, obscuring, enveloping. The profile, colours and texture of the land disguised and erased. I had forgotten what shape it should be, but I knew it was wrong. Along the ridge line cloud rose thickly and spilled soft, making a new outline. The cloud was coming for us, threatening enclosure, obliteration.
Reading reviews of “Still Alice” – a film that won’t come here for months, if it ever does – I realise that the tinge of disorientation I felt, at knowing and not knowing quite what the place I live should look like, echoes dementia symptoms. I travel in a place I know, down roads with which I am familiar, and they look subtly different, unrecognised and strange. I feel lost.
They say about the weather here that if you don’t like it, you only have to wait ten minutes for an entirely different weather to arrive. I hope my mind has a similar capacity for renewal, and that when the daffodils come up and fill the roadsides with brilliant gold, consolidating the grass after the muddy floods of winter storm water, my thinking will again come clear and bright.