When I woke up this morning I was seized by a desire to wander the old green ways that run past the front of our house, from fountainhead to churchyard and beyond to the forests that surround us. The weather had taken a decisive turn back to earlier summer promise, having been somewhat indecisive recently, neither quite autumnal, nor settled or at ease.
I had heard thunder rolling over the Andaine hills, and felt the scorched breeze that heralds the lightning, but it never came near. The wind has filleted the few yellowing leaves on the walnut, but September’s music still seems far away.
I have started my second round of chemotherapy, and I am feeling remarkably well on it, despite my beard turning white and falling out, and the hair on my head changing colour as well before it too drops. I am having my own personal autumn. I am become deciduous.
Along the wooded pathways there are still tiny oak trees, acorns from the previous year pushing up five centimetres from the ground. It’s the same every year. There is too much shade for them to be able to thrive. Every spring I think about lifting some and replanting them in a more auspicious spot. Perhaps next year?
The green way drops steeply to the bottom of a narrow gulley where two valleys meet. A stream connects them. Flies and midges float in clouds over the narrow wooden bridge. I keep my mouth closed as I cross to the other side and begin the ascent of the hill that becomes Le Roc. It’s not a particularly spectacular hill. A local business built a factory on it with the only proviso being that the view be preserved between the two churches of the parish.
The path ends at the edge of town. It’s well used all year round by ramblers and cyclists and horse riders. They come past our front door chatting merrily or panting in a serious manner. No-one takes a mountain bike this way for fun. It is all terribly serious. I plan to put up a mini-bibliothèque with French and English books to delight travellers. Perhaps I’ll slip a German volume in?
I am told it’s good to have plans ready for my recovery. Indeed I hope to have my own personal spring in the new year, with fresh new hair and perhaps a different shape beard this time? But also, I am engaged in working out a fuller vision of what my new life might be like. I have already decided I will get a tattoo.
While out walking, alone along the shaded path, out of the sun-drenched fields, I heard voices, and footsteps, but saw no other ramblers. I peered out through the hedgerows but the fields were empty, the harvest raised. These ancient ways, these deepened lanes trod for centuries still hold echoes of earlier journeys. There are ghosts on the path. Not one of them mine.