Narrow Road

“mountain flesh, mountain bones”

Casting torchlight beam around, 03:00. Chasing wild boar from the garden again. Hazel walking stave cracks against Earth — echo followed by crashing trees and snapping branches. Boar scattering through understory.

Drawn close to the house by fallen apples, the boar clamber over collapsed sections of wall. Failing to push their way through the inner fence they feast on the fruit between the house and the forest treeline.

Their primordial grunting wakes us in the night. We run them off before they find a way into our growing spaces, which they could quickly destroy, reducing the worked land to a blasted plain of craters.

We'll need to make more of an effort to remove the enticing apples from the ground, the rotting and damaged fruits that smell so good. We'll also need to patch the gaps in the wall that afford the animals easy access. Despite their intimidating size and strength, wild boar are shy and lazy, their movements easily re-directed.

In the forest an old spruce broken by Winter lashings, caught in the canopy of its neighbour. Another even larger leans to the side, hovering on the precipice.

Thick roots break the surface, straining in the deep Earth.

The sound of wood creaking, bowing, cracking.

Losing the cover these giants provide, the forest floor bathes in sunlight. Struggling saplings spring to life. Maple, hornbeam, rowan, beech, oak and hazel crowd the newly opened space.

A frenzy of competition.

The fallen trees will be used for firewood. Stumps left standing as a home for beetles and woodpeckers, wasps and fungi. A thousand teeming creatures seen and unseen.

Decay. Renewal. Without end. Beginning.

Two expired Polaroids. (2019).

Storms broke bringing great relief. Enlivening wilting greens and easing the stress on hardened soils. Partially refilling outdoor tanks.

It will take longer for the groundwater level to rise. Much of this region is yet to recover from the 2018 Summer, when the country was ablaze and spreading.

Yesterday the pump began to strain, struggling to draw water. Like the early Autumnal birch the depleted well is a sign, warning of a fundamental shift in the landscape. A reminder that the map may no longer be the territory, as the tired adage goes.

All our failed crops have been harvested off. Now we keep an anxious eye on the weather report, hoping to avoid an early September frost. A sharp overnight drop would impact our late developing plants before they have time to ripen. Two more weeks above zero would be perfect.

This first full year has been framed by difficult conditions. It's clear that growing a wide range of crops will be vital for mitigating the impacts of unsuccessful harvests. Although we're left with limited choice the variety of plants sowed means we've still produced plenty, and we can see how and where to make changes next season.

All we can ever really do is watch the land and work to its needs, adapting to what we're given.

Countryside patina collects unevenly. Inspecting the sunny facade of the house betrays its age. Traces of warm yellow darkening spotty brown.

In the garden the falun red barn and earth cellar weather down to raw wood. Green algae blooming where gutters spill rainwater. Massive foundation stones shifting uneasily.

Everywhere cobwebs, compost, wasp nests, wood stacks, snake skins.

I feel similarly exposed to the rough of time, as if gathering moss on bones, fermenting a forest mould beneath skin. Self wears a skeleton of old timber that no longer quite fits together. Warped living like doors swollen in frames.

There is a sympathy watching once vibrant orchard trees die off. Bark drying and peeling, folds flapping in wind. Remnants ghosting with purpose around the mountain.

I drink more coffee and peer out through settling mists. 07:27. Tops of the tallest trees vanishing.

All these feelings a clear sense of time, seasons, the well-travelled way.

Three death poems.


2022.

limbs hold me back —

Spring Summer Autumn Winter, still

clinging to the Earth

2021.

tasting this deathless wine —

affairs of men cannot touch

this kind of drunkenness

2020.

following the highest path —

studying the dharma

of birch, oak, pine, spruce

Photograph, by the Baltic Sea on the Blekinge coast. Svema Colour 125 (2021).

A cold start to Spring. A long Winter bleeding over.

Our seeds were slow to germinate, young plants stunted in their development. A condition worsened by the arrival of the Summer drought. Heatwave harrying our growing spaces.

The time since has been a struggle against water scarcity. Preserving every drop. Admittedly an easier feat to accomplish when you don't have a toilet or bathroom to worry about.

Resigned to washing in a small bowl I find myself missing the outdoor shower. Though a scrubbing dip in the local lake is always an option.

It's a humbling experience, a gift of perspective in a world where industrial agriculture has pushed global freshwater to a diminishing resource. Where the Earth's rains and groundwaters are broadly contaminated, and our mega-cities leak millions of litres from negligent infrastructures. The daily waste of systems grown fat on long-term inefficiencies.

Having to consider how much water you consume, and where you source it from, is only one reality to face beyond the padded walls of civilis.

Morning coffee on the battered porch, 07:00. Paint peeling from cracked wood where solitary wasps store food.

Recently harvested garlic and onions hang in bunches above me.

The sound of falling apples. Fruit piling on the paths and out along the forest edges. The garden boundary marked by a mix of cultivated orchard species and self-seeded escapees. Wild boughs reaching for the sun, laden with produce.

Storms swirled around us overnight.

Crescendo passing the mountain by.

A bench in the meadow. Scrap wood sanded and hammered into two old stumps. Dented iron nails salvaged from cobwebbed tool-shed.

The usual observations.

Fragrant wash of juniper berries followed by sweet scent of ripening apple.

White noise, trembling aspen leaves. Staccato call of black woodpeckers mixed with trumpeting cranes, migrating between wetlands.

Swarm of insects drawn to sap leaking from recently felled pine. The fray attracting giant blue-bodied dragonflies that sweep about, hunting and feeding in flight. Behind them red squirrels streak between spruce. Outstretched branches touching tips.

A beetle I've never seen before drops out of the sky. Landing on my knee. My light grey linen trousers cool in the Summer, caked in dirt.

The beetle's wings pull back into an emerald green carapace.

Nothing comes before or after this scene. It repeats again and again.