A familiar feeling crept into my shoulders and around my eyes. It was the dull ache of stress and clinging tension, slowing my thoughts and ladening my body with a state of unease. The last couple of weeks have been awkward to say the least. Work issues seemed to be constantly cropping up in my mind. It had not been helped by the high winds and driving rain of the last two days. I had to abandon our usual wanders as it was plainly unsafe to be walking within the woodlands or the country roads, but to try and explain this to my dogs is of course impossible. They remained restless by their containment within the hovel.
Tonight the winds had eased slightly and the sky was clear of cloud and full of moonlight. I decided to take to make a short drive to a nearby woodland and allow a few miles of muddy trails and the roar of air through the trees to clear my mind of the tensions within. Releasing the dogs from the back of the car was a noisy affair of barking and excitement as they rushed along the first track and into the undergrowth. I followed as I could holding onto my hood and wrapped up against winters cold blast. Nervously I watched the tall conifers for a while to gauge their movement in the winds. After reassuring myself of the conditions I felt at ease and stepped deeper into the woodland and away into the shifting moonlight shadows.
The wider trails and clearings left me leaning into the wind and bracing myself against the force, but once within the trees the coldness lost its bite and the warmth stripped away from skin covered by 3 layers began to return. I turned to the smallest of paths within the trees, some are barely a foot wide and tangled with roots, tree stumps and fallen branches. Even with the brightness of the moon I had to resort to the lantern to ensure safe footing. Its white light captured the gentlest of movement in the branches and gave the depths of the wood a feeling of moving and breathing with the winds. The trail would have been impossible to follow were it not for my familiarity with it. A bare branch pointed the way as the trail vanished in the root system of an old tree. As I passed by I reached for the branch and patted it with a gloved hand as I have done many times before, in many ways it is like shaking hands with an old friend.
Passing though a shallow ditch and stepping over a fallen tree I could hear the eerie sounds of the steel gates in a near by field rattling as if an old ghost sought to discard its chains. The hedgerows and oaks stood bare against the starlight with every leaf ripped from the skeleton of the canopy. The winds hurtled though the empty branches rattling them in a strange applause as I trudged through the waterlogged and mud bound pathways beneath them. By the time I reached the drier routes in the centre of the wood I was breathing hard and relieved to be on firmer ground. These routes gave an easy walk for a mile of so back to my aging car standing on the edge of the road untroubled by the vehicles who trawl through the darkened car parks used by the visitors in the daylight hours.
I slumped into the drivers seat and enjoyed a moments rest before heading off. My mind was clear and my body was comfortably tired from the enjoyment of walking and breathing fresh air. I still have many tasks ahead of me for the week, but the feelings and fatigue clouding my mind & judgement have lifted, and all for the sake of a hour or so within the realm of nature and the elements.