Old Gods & Raven Calls.
These winter days, we become crepuscular. Sometimes it feels that, outside, only the glow from big round hazel leaves, or the gold flare from a little quince tree in the hedge, with its hard, yellow-green fruits, provides the only natural light. Like a stored memory; a facsimile of sunshine, a warmth re-gifted in sight only. Leaves deep-litter the lanes & the first windows are blown through the woods. Holes in the sails of the canopy. New shapes – or old ones – are revealed. The old gods are up & on the move …
On the hill, there is a strange, smoky-mauve, quiet atmosphere. Smoke rises from bonfires, just as chalk dust & chaff plumes did six weeks ago, from the combines. A half-hour’s amble around the top of the hill brings a salve of birds.
Redwings and fieldfare are close by, gobbling through the hedges with soft, contact calls. Golden plover swing by in a rapid shape-shifting flock, to land like poppy seeds broadcast out across the field. Their piping whistles fall to me from a sky they have already left. In the foreground, a handsome-bright stonechat hunts from a hawthorn; his smart white collar and rich chestnut-caramel, striking against the dark red berries.
Then I have to notice what I’ve been trying to ignore. Patches of a strange substance all over the grass. It looks revolting; like something a dog produces when it’s eaten too much grass.
My own dog looks at me, witheringly. There is too much of it. I steel myself for a closer look. Some patches are like yellow coral on the grass stems. Others are more like white slime, or bile or, in other places, scrambled eggs or snail eggs.
It’s everywhere. A weird ectoplasm that no dog could be responsible for. Of course: Dog’s Vomit Slime Mould Fungus! There is so much of it – I’ve not seen it up here before, or perhaps I overlooked it – but I feel inwardly triumphant with my discovery.
Ravens call from the circular wood. They seem to be utilising it as some kind of amphitheatre. I creep in to listen. One makes the sound of a bell struck softly, whilst another plays around with the sound of a slowly pulled, two-handled saw.
Looking up at it, I trip over a small pile of soft-edged, crumbling bricks.There was once a house up here, that doubled as an occasional pub. It’s a high, lonely road and I wonder if it became a kind of pub from its position. A shelter for the lost or weary, desperate travellers or lonely shepherds.
The dog growls at something I can’t see. I wonder what the ravens are repeating so earnestly; what they’ve heard. I turn for home, towards a squid-ink sky; clouds like ink smudges and brush strokes bleeding into blotting paper, as the dark approaches again.
A handful of dry whitebeam leaves, curled like cigarillos, racket down the road behind me. Unusually up here, there is not a breath of wind.