Dark, too, blooms


I dislike the closing-in of the evenings at this time of year.  The way dusk comes earlier and earlier each day feels oppressive, as if someone’s lowering a lid over the world.  Yes, there are compensations – I like seeing the dawn and once Christmas is on the way, the end is in sight.  There’s a short poem by Wendell Berry called ‘To Know the Dark’ which is much-used in poetry therapy.  I find my reaction to it varies – dark isn’t a singular thing.

So, continuing the last post, I am on the No 1 bus, perched on a seat near the front in a melee of teenagers coming home from school. I recall, from driving, that there’s a back route into Llanystumdwy.  I ask one of the girls. She’s keen to be helpful but hasn’t got a clue.  If I go to Cricieth, it’ll be a couple of miles walk along the main road or a wait for another bus.  So, when I see a sign saying Llanystumdwy 1 ½ miles, I ask the driver to stop.

The silence is loud after the chatter and rumble of the bus. I’m at a t-junction with no house in sight, just low mossy walls, almost bare trees, lots of twisty Welsh oaks and a meandering lane heading into the distance.  I’m dressed for the city, wearing a coat with a pattern of zebra stripes, pulling a wheelie case and carrying a handbag, completely out of place in an environment of stone, leaf and wood, everything muted green, grey and brown.  The decision’s made though, the bus has gone, so I set off at a cracking pace, the rumble of my case setting birds squawking.  As every walker knows, a mile is a variable thing and after twenty minutes, there’s no sign of a village.  I pass a couple of houses that seem unoccupied, someone mending a wall in the distance waves hello but there’s no one else about, a white transit van passes me  – twice in my direction, once in the other – the driver must have turned round to have another look – but doesn’t stop to offer a lift.

The lane undulates on and on and it starts to get dark.  Although it’s full moon, it’s cloudy so the dark is pretty dark.  I trundle onwards with my wheelie case, seeing very little other than the hint of a looming hedgerow on my left. There’s no mobile signal, no one knows where I am.  An upward incline is encouraging – what goes up etc must, ultimately, go down to the sea.  It begins to drizzle so I quicken my pace.  It’s all a bit random but I feel alive.

Still no sign though of the village.  And I recall, it’s not the first time I’ve been lost in these lanes. And then I spot the sign for the Rabbit Farm.  Then suddenly, and I gasp, I breast the hill and not only is there the scatter of houses of Llanystumdwy but the wide sweep of Cardigan Bay and the twinkle of lights in Harlech to the South and along the Lleyn to the West.  Somehow I’ve overshot the village but soon I’m crossing the bridge and passing Lloyd George’s woodland grave. I see the bus that I would have caught disappearing towards Pwlleli.

In the dense dark tunnel of trees leading to the drive of Ty Newydd, I bump into a young man with a carrier bag of shopping, just off the bus. He’s a screenwriter or playwright, staying in one of the cottages. We chat and then I go in through the big front door, to the warmth and light, Bo and Olwen surprised to see me, wet, dishevelled, a little hysterical,  unheralded by a car pulling in.