Black Dog

These fenland nights are as black as a glass of Guinness. On these same nights a year ago, the skies seemed full of stars. This year the night is full of rain. Nothing is seen, everything is felt and felt in the bones. The clouds glower all day and at night they press in like blankets soaked in cold ink. The ploughed earth is fat with peat, the furrows metalled with water, the ridges like fallen drunks replete from the sodden summer. The drains are a mile across, scudding with sooty, ripped trees which roll past, sticking against the bridges which they will soon flow over. The only colour is the red and yellow of the road-closed sign afloat on the water. Dark moulds creep in from the bathroom windows. Dark mud creeps up through the grass. The sky gathers bark-like against the moon, if the moon dares show its face. The last colour of the summer sits in the trees and drips and shivvers. All other colours are lost to the earth like broken soldiers. Crows in joyous hundreds, fountain into the sky to pay homage to the ancient swamp-born beast who rises with the risen flood and finds easy prey in the agued mist.


Green Reprise

It is easy to see how these fens breed superstition. Even in the wet and dark of winter, life wriggles forth. Myths emerge like dark butterflies, but there is a rawer power than that at work in this deep earth. 

Learning to restore fruit trees in an ancient, restored orchard I came upon a grove of apple trees that might have stood a thousand years. Their boughs cupped out low over the ground, each as thick around as my thigh. Each dressed in moss so green that even in the grey light it seemed ablaze. That glow pulled me into the grove, seducing me. Leaf free, fruit free, but so obviously and deeply alive.  There is no darkness that can completely enfold the life force in these trees and I longed to fold myself up in those strong green arms and be healed.

Here is the source of a thousand religions, and I want our orchard to live as long.


Trapped in an Album Cover

Dessicated in mind and body by long flights I wake at 4.00am.  In my underlit hotel room in one of those endless urban spaces between Californian cities, I pace away an hour.  At the first hint of dawn I walk to the end of the corridor and look out of the window there, to find that I have woken up in the cover art of Hotel California. The morning light has a dusty haze, but one flushed with acid yellow, both sharpening and blowing out the edges of the leaves of the fray-leaved palm trees lifting their arms like some dust-washed street-corner messiah exorcising chemical angels on a hope-parched, car-washed intersection. Right by the window, where the dust cannot catch the light before it reaches me, the matt lime leaves of the old pine tree are washed with the colour of maple syrup. A little further still a maple in all its autumn majesty splashes red against the walls of the corrugated canyons like the uncleaned residue of a drive-by shooting. The muscular light seems to pause in every layer of distance, as though the entire view is filled with slightly unclean panes of glass. In the distance the sunlight lies like dried brown sugar on the tops of the small folds of the hills, but leaves the furrows dark, making the bald landscape look like the neck-folds of one of those good old boys leaning out of the windows of their trucks. Strange trees mark the skyline like straight-line cracks in a scarred perspex sky. Leafless citizens of the electro-magnetic forest, irrigating and eroding the long dead watercourses with data. I look, wondering why the scene seems strangely desolate. There are no people here. Every living soul, encapsulated in a metal box, from the tiniest cars, to the grandest malls like termite hills, is hiding from what remains of nature here, and well they might. The light remains but the legend of California sits cross legged in the malls with a cardboard sign around its neck, begging for cash.





Three Beautiful Things - fen autumn

A field of leeks in the dew, blue like molded copper.

Seeing the moon through the trees and realising that the leaves have gone and that it is dark at six.

The ash trees tossing their leaves in the gale, one side silver against a mounting black cloud