A blue sky this morning invited me to walk. Three times, this week, I have sallied forth, but this time I had a purpose in mind. I need to write and have decided to rejoin a short story group but as an absent member, to instill me with discipline. I am not sure how this will work, however. We will see. I have been given two titles for stories and inspiration was sadly lacking, so I set off determined to banish my writer’s block.
Not sure how far I will go, I aimed for the beach. Across a farmland track, through the cutting between houses I turned left, stopping to admire an oak tree, golden against the blue sky. Soon it will discard its remaining leaves and stand skeleton like until May when bright green leaves will cover its branches again. I wondered how old it was, older than me for sure and it will long outlast me.
Onwards I trudged, my wellington boots avoiding the the muddy puddles until I reached the concrete farm road. I turned left again, following a Landrover which quickly pulled ahead, my mind wandered and a story began to populate my thoughts. My eyes spied a bird of prey hovering above a patch of uncut maize until it swooped and was lost from view.
I turned right down a track bordered by a hedge. A large animal emerged from the hedge and ran in front of me, too large for a hare, it had to be a muntjac. I wished it would turn and look at me but it scooted off, out of sight.
I began to hear the pop pop of guns. As I veered left towards the farmyard, the stench of gun smoke began to fill my nostrils. A line of beaters walked through the cabbage field calling and waving white flags and the story in my head, set just after WW1, took a grisly turn as a line of gunmen took aim at the poor pheasants being driven their way. The smell, more acrid now, the bullets flying, the dogs waiting, I cheered on the pheasants flying low over my head, praying the gunmen wouldn’t turn and take a pot shot at one. I expect they are well trained enough not to do that. But I didn’t fancy being on the menu tonight. Funnily enough, the menu, was one of the titles for the story story, so behold, I had two stories from one walk.
A few hundred yards further, farmland and woods gave way to the dunes which protect us from the north sea. I had a decision to make. Would I turn round once I reached to sea and face the guns again? I walked through deep sand, the dunes full of the sound of skylarks but I doubted that I would ever see one. Notices told me that the beach was closed, I knew the reason why and wanted to see for myself so I climbed the final dune and there they were – hundreds of seals, few babies as yet, and they still arrive. Four ladies in jackets which were marked Seal Counters stood a few yards away, clipboards in hand. My decision was easy. I would walk along the dunes to the next village, admiring the sight which brings tourists from near and far. A mile of walking, a mile of one of nature’s phenomenon.
As I walked, a sound I had never heard, accompanied me, the mournful song of seals, or silkies, or mermaids, my imagination took flight. I thought that if I tripped and fell, my cries for help would merge with the seal song and I would become one of them.
Luckily, I had my phone and arranged instead to meet my husband at the pub in the village. I was tiring now, the church steeple guiding me towards civilisation and a welcome drink sat under a silvery sky. A perfect November day for a nature walk, instead of doing my tax return. I will put that off to a rainy day.
Home at last, I discovered that they are muck-spreading in the field opposite. The stanch of manure, worse than that of gunpowder. The joy of living in a rural area hits home but it will be a long time before I forget that walk and I have a story.