Lay of the Land

It's a field. When darkness finally descends, it's a field. All day the sun has been blinking but now it's finally gone to sleep. The humming of people, the braying of oxen, the silence of work, are gone. In the darkness, only the rush of the wind through trees, like a slow clapping, flows around me. Kneeling, my hands dig into the dirt. It is not a pleasant feeling but a needed feeling. It's a field, I whisper to the grass, I whisper to the trees, I whisper to the brook, I whisper to the wind, I whisper to the lady bug, I whisper to the dung, I whisper to the night, it's a field.

The earth supports me. I am her child. In the distance, the hills can be glimpsed, glittering in the million million shattered lights of the stars through leaves. A hill stands out, stands out from the felt corpse of the land. Like honey trickles into the pot, the earth slowly, slowly, slowly gathers towards a tor. My eyes sliver past the darkness, brush against the night, forgetting it is dark. I see, I see the tor. My feet start moving, dragged by the inexorable gravity that is the tide, the shift, the lay of the land. To turn seems to me an unimaginable effort, the breaker holding back the sea, the lighthouse holding back the storm, the vessel tacking against all the wind. And so, dragged, my feet create furrows across the field, in the fallow, over the criss-cross of the day's work. It is a field.

A thousand lips kiss my ankles as my feet start climbing, slowly embraced in a lilted dance, a lurid clapping of tiny hands on bear flesh. I want to collapse, to sit forever in the grass, to eat forever the blades and drink forever the dew. But the tor calls on. Gently, the wind nudges at the nape of my neck, shivers following its touch like a silken thunder following a muted flash. Hold, step, hold, step, breathe, hold, step. Up the tor the thousand rushing hands urge me, up the tor to see the night. With a slow and familiar susurration, my hands move by my side, tracking lazy seconds as they drift by. I stop.

Turning, as if some cork has been unwound, I turn to survey the near past. It is a field. From here, the minute details of the day's work, the paths of where the oxen plowed, the depth of the mounds created by the boots of workers, is unclear. It is a field. At the far end stands a tree, the tree. I am pushed gently back into the day, silently laid down by the arms of memory. I remember the light breaking through the leaves, the bark rough against my skin. I remember her hand running down my cheek. I remember the cries of the bees, the song of the tree, the daze of the free. I remember her hand running down my cheek. I remember her tears carving a small creek, in the base of my neck, where the chest joins the shoulder. I remember her sheltered, me sheltered, us unending, in the light of the bees.

I turn to face the tor.

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