The Mirror of Landscape begins with a semi-diary entry for December 30th, describing a moor-land walk. I follow the same route today through a changed world. Squelching is replaced by crackling as the land is finally frozen after weeks of fairly constant rain. I cannot resist that satisfying snap of ice beneath my boot, although soon regret this childish over-enthusiasm as I sink deep into the earth and have to wrench my leg out of the reluctant bog.
The muted winter sun is a novelty, brightening what has been lost in mizzle for so long. Sounds are sharper, no longer muffled by the wet air or hurled away by the buffeting winds. Where the moor runs right down into the reservoir below me, the oatmeal expanse of grasses is transformed into a shallow beach of lemon sand. On the same gorse plants sit rusty stems of old woody growth and fresh deep green points newly alert. The long, unmarked body of a dead snake lies lightly coiled, mostly upside down, on the broad rutted path. It must have been lured out of a warm lair by the deceptive sunlight into an unwelcoming chill. On the bottom of a tiny footprint pond, its lifeless pen-nib head moves gracefully in time with the trickling current above, as run-off water is carried into the lower bank.
As I’m looking at everything, so familiar and yet so constantly fluctuating, I’m thinking about writing and expressing what’s around me, and then wonder if this is inevitable. Is it possible to remain within the landscape without anticipating the warmer hours in the study capturing the experience on paper? Does that degree of separation forcibly introduce a note of manipulation or make the temptation of enhancement irresistible? Is the original experience in the head or of the body?
I see I have written ‘muted sun’ when on the spot it was simply ‘pale.' So can I be true to the land and to my own criteria, or is this a meaningless distinction? I know it bothers me a lot.