The iced land opened up before me at the road end. Whitened earth stretched out to dark hills in the distance. Hoary sandstone seams are a running stitch, hemming field boundaries and retaining muffled, shifting sheep.
As I advanced into the veiled land, still, silent cattle loomed from road edges, breathing smoke plumes into the frosted air.
There is the surprise of a sandstone farmhouse nested in the crook of a land fold. Shrouded, lightly.
And then a spectral wall of cloud, fallen to earth, has consumed house windows and doors, church hall walls, has eaten the penitentiary.
The spire rises above with a stark bleak clarity.
To my right and the south I sense the reassuring omniscience of Tinto – pre-history pointing still to the sky and tying us to this earth. On the Hill Fort, buffering mists reveal shadowy mesolithic ancestors working prized pitchstone into bewitching tools and carrying a horn of fire up the ritual path.
To my left and in front, lies Wolfclyde and the Coulter Motte. Its settler farmers carving their new life in royally gifted land and building. Recent. They speak to me in a Flemish tongue bringing new trade.
But there are the neolith field barrows, tumulus rising like slumbering giants before me. Unfolding and furling again as I pass at increasing speed.
The land is a cradle and a grave. It is food and shelter, sustenance and death. It is my womb and my home and I will turn my flesh into its folds, one day.
Until then, there is the journey. The daily grind of the city, and of work and of money, to be fought. There are the little joys to be won. The smell of Ana’s wind-blown hair and the earthy odours of the pleasure she took in that new football strip; a smile and kiss; the promise of living, replete.