Solvitur ambulando – It is solved by walking – November 2022
6th October – luminous, endless. By Maxim Griffin.
A far bell rings three – this sky is without clouds and this night is without sleep – cold and clear – reaching the maximum autumnal – big coat time – Orion rules the southern horizon – Jupiter has never been so close.
home – the streetlights are off between midnight and six – road walking won’t do – cross country is best, fewer hills, less chance of being accused of mischief – on – the starlight is bright enough – cast a shadow – the call and response of owls – a lane of bungalows then paths, mostly.
Look – Jupiter has never been so close – the Galilean satellites are visible with the naked eye, just – the county is quiet – little studs of light – a roundabout, a farmyard, the red tip of a communications mast – traffic sounds from elsewhere – flick the headtorch on – paths through weird hollows of blackthorn and glittering sloes – something grunts away in the thicket – badger maybe – sounded big – crossing an arterial road – nothing, not even a bread truck – just the starlight then the shadows.
On the other side, a shivering rank of late ragwort and brambles holds much roadside archaeology – we know they were a thirsty people – perhaps these roadside depositions had a sacred or even ritual purpose – listen – the breeze ripples wrappers.
A straight line over big fields – lumps of chalk and flint, stubble still – a fallow patch where bigger stones get dumped – there are a couple of keepers – stash them for another day – on – near the manor of Grimblethorpe is a flint on the field’s edge that is bigger than the head of a horse – the logistics of bringing it home are being considered.
Orion lifts in the sky – Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka, each a thousand times vaster than our sun – binoculars – focus as far as they’ll go – steady – a wobble from breathing – up the field aways to a stile – that’ll do – something to lean into, something to steady – squint – the distance between here and there is about one and a half light years – space, as Hawkwind would say, is deep – the Draconid meteor shower should be picking up over the next couple of nights – turn to face the north west, a faint glow from Goole and Scunthorpe – nothing doing – just a satellite in low orbit tracking without sound east to west.
A hush of wind carries something across the field – sharp and shiny – silver with ribbons – a birthday balloon carried far from the party – 70 in bulbous script – too quick to catch, gusting off until it gets tangled in the grey arms of an ash tree – there’s a tree in the marshes near Boston that has worn the ruins of a helium Elsa for years.
Moon’s up – waxing gibbous – face of a shocked monk – it is bright enough out to read a page – the canopy of the trees is quickly falling – leaf debris carrying on the breeze – collar up – the silhouette of dreaming wood pigeons – big shadows – car headlights arc across the field, a road close – heading home, heading out – sudden flash is enough to make everything that little bit more tense – wait – fox bark.
Their earth must be close – the vixen starts letting the kits out in autumn – if you wait long enough they will come – the bark gets closer, rattling across the crest of the hill – they’re on the edge of a glacial valley, in the tree line – sweep the field with a head torch for anything reflective – quick, you wouldn’t want to be taken for a nighthawk – there’s only one at first – must be the vixen – a steady gaze reflected – must be three or four young ones – they’re quicker, leaping all over the place – six eyes glowing back – good lads.
Ursa Minor hangs over the Jaws of Humber – the moon will be full in a couple of nights – a few traces of cloud wisping out to sea – the first shooting star doesn’t quite register – too quick, the corner of the eye – you wait but nothing – another in the corner of the eye – a cheap jump scare – by the third you know what to look for – there – towards the Wash and Norfolk – once you’ve caught one the rest is easy – cosmic debris coming thick and fast, we’re passing through the tail of comet 21P/Giacobini–Zinner – a green scar burns across the south faster than a heartbeat.
Human voices can carry for miles – the direction can’t be read – farmer, maybe – mushroom pickers? No sign – no lights – the sound mutates and shifts – remember that bit in Zulu where Michael Caine thinks he hears a train – it goes and comes – between Horncastle and home there are seven ghost stories – pull focus – half a mile south is a battery farm and the night shift have left the door open – talk radio amplified by corrugated sheds.
Walk on – maybe a mile – a plateau before the Wolds drop – someone’s keeping deer near Walesby – a flight comes into Humberside, another approaches Robin Hood – pause – chug some water – use a stile to gain a vantage point – a yellow and black path sign from way back – there’s a haze rising across – it’ll be murky in the valley first thing – listen – look.
Geese – lots of geese – waves of them, way below the radar – formations against the night, bombers returning home – the first skein must be 150 strong – 700 at least – calling and calling back – three Ornette Coleman records playing at once – geese in angles across the moon, through Orion, under Jupiter – jet planes heading east and there, a meteor – boom, perfect.
On – gone four – the first of the day birds are clocking in – it’ll be dark until six – moon gets low, down toward Lincoln – Jupiter setting – the paths are still bright – take whichever way you want – take a gamble on breakfast in Market Rasen or keep the line straight to the barrows, then east until the sunrise.
Crossing a deserted medieval village, long grass, near frost at the edge of the night – look – a shooting star heads to the horizon near Venus.