Is it wrong of me to want this? I ask myself. There is a haze in my head that I can’t quite define. Something seems off – parallel. Alternate. I can’t quite place my finger on it, but it all feels dreamy. Ethereal. The grass beneath my feet is damp and the lower halves of my boots are covered in a thin layer of wetness. The morning dew, I think with a smile. I once wrote a story that started in the morning dew and I recall writing about it in great detail. For over 23 years of my life, I was never much of a morning person, but then I started to discover it – the easiness, the calm, the colours in the sky, the crispness of the early day, the sun that rose as if the horizon was her bed – and yes, the dew. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this amount of sunrises in the months of travelling as I’ve seen ever in my life prior to this. This… Vagabond life, the travel-style living I currently inhabit. And here we are.
The grass is greener than I could have imagined. Not the ‘greener on the other side’ kind of green, or the ‘watered every day at set times’ kind. It’s just greener. Saturated. Fuller. Vibrant. Persistent. I gaze around and realise that this place is exactly that – persistent. On the high hills, the grass is as green as it is, trampled, under my feet. I scout the trees that look like Christmas decoration on these grand slopes of earth and wonder what makes them look so much more different than the other trees I’ve seen so far because they do seem so different. They are different.
I am on the side of a hill, overlooking one of the many lakes. I know exactly where I am – the Lake District. I am unsure of why I know this, though I’m certain I’d know because I’d have to drive here, taking the swindling, snaking roads that carry treacherous turns at the most picturesque corners. I wonder why they’re always there, on the corners, where nature’s pull draws your eyes in wonderment and at the last second, the conscious of your life rings the alarm bells. Eyes on the road, I keep telling myself. It’s hard, I know it’s hard, but it’s either eyes on the road or your body in a grave. I stare down the steep, rocky curves – now standing on both feet and not in a car driving – and for just a glimpse of time, I think it’s not a bad way to go. It’s not a bad place to be buried here. I’d drive my car down the road, colliding with the crash barrier and the trees before going over the edge of the cliff and down into the waters that beckon. The water always beckons.
I am back on the brea and still staring down into the depths below. The dirt road, a hiker’s road, is mostly flat and only at times levelling with the degree of the hill. The arms of brackens and some tangled lines of bilberry bushes that grope at my feet obscure the path desperately. Mays appears from behind a larch tree and wiggles his tail. He almost looks as if he’s smiling. Then, he dashes off again, disappearing in the foliage. I peer down to the lake where the water is a greyish, deep blue. I looked it up to decide on what’s the best way to describe the colour and ended up with a taut combination of slate, ocean and spruce. Perhaps it needed a touch of Aegean to add some blue, otherwise it’d look too grey. The low, overhanging clouds above us diffuse the light, dampen the intensity of the colours yet at the same time they both magnify and deepen them. Some of the crowns that looks like kindred spikes are douched in mist, making them appear magical and elusive. I imagine myself hiking all the way to the top and standing there with my head in the clouds and my feet firmly planted on the green of the fell.
We are the only ones here so the silence is exactly that – silent. Quiet. The wind breezes through, ruffling leaves and as we make our way down we hear the cobbling of the ripples that emerge from the lake, bobbing against the pebbled shores. This is solitude. I can feel my heart beat along with the softly crashing waves and since my shoes are already wet, I stand in the waters of the lake – just deep enough to wet the soles, not far out enough to wet my socks. The stones grind underneath my feet. Now that we’ve made our way down and entered the valley where the naturally formed lake lies folded between the slopes, the wind has picked up. The curve of the earth strengthens the force of the wind and it’s suddenly tugging at my hair, my jacket and ruffling Mays’ fur. He’s much deeper into the water, turning around and smiling again. Wiggling.
I wish I could stay here. Is it wrong of me to want this? I ask myself again. A bird takes flight, spreading its wings as it gracefully glides metres above the water where the ripples always emerge from somewhere but I can never quite tell where. The grey sky is broken at times and the sun peers through. The sound of trees are like whispers in my one ear, the washing, gentle rush of water on my other and I’ve got my feet in the water –
I stare down and know what I’ve just seen is real, but it suddenly isn’t anymore. My boots have disappeared and the coldness of the lake is seeping through the skin of my bare feet. I frown, feel the pebbles beneath my feet and suddenly the sky is turning white.
I open my eyes and am surrounded by darkness. Faintly, I see a ghost on my left, on the bed straight across from me. I hear it take a deep breath and then lets the air out through his mouth. A white dot right next to him goes up and down several times. Mays is smiling.
Sometimes, I forget where we were. I forget where we are, where we’ve been and where we’re going. I wonder if this is the travel life, the pilgrim’s life I thought suited me perfectly. And for someone who always wants to know everything, who always wants to control everything, I’m rather more-than-okay with not knowing everything, like not knowing where I am, and not having control. It’s waking up in stranger’s beds. Looking out windows and recalling the view you witnessed the night before and comparing it to the views you’ve witnessed many nights before, realising they are not alike in the slightest. It’s uncharted roads that you don’t know where they’ll be leading you to. It’s getting lost with or without intention. It’s names on maps that you remember, linking them together with bus lines, train rails or aeroplane routes – sometimes even with your own two feet. It’s waking up and you realise you have forgotten where you are.
I let my head sink back into my pillow. I am back in my bed in the room in the house that overlooks Dovedale. There are mountains here, but no water. No lakes. We’ve been here for a while now, but dreams take us back – the kind of dreams that are partly real and the other half is not, but you can’t quite tell which is which. The kind of dream that is made of memories and pixie dust. I smile, like Mays, and recall those short days spent in the glory of Wordsworth’s solitude.
“Yet in this peaceful Vale we will not spend
Unheard-of days, though loving peaceful thoughts.
A Voice Shall Speak, and what will be the theme?
On Man, on Nature, and on Human Life
Musing in Solitude.”
- William Wordsworth, The Recluse, book I, Home at Grasmere.