Caught by the River

Over The Border #2

Jude Rogers | 16th January 2017

Following her triumphant return to these pages at the end of last year, Jude Rogers continues to chronicle her move to Wales:

A year and four months ago, a day after a day of peculiarly wild and relentless summer rain – the kind that bathes your coat, sinks the cotton of your sleeves, drowns your soft, summer skin, channels water to the hard, icy white of your bones – we decided, this is right. This feels right. The deluge had gone a day later, and we knew it’d be back, but there was something about this place that just took us – an idea of light, of space, and of silence. There was also a lightness, and a spaciousness, to the idea of starting again, of running away. A peace cutting through. It was something we both needed and wanted.

A year and three months later, in the heavy blue of early morning on the broken, pitted tarmac of the B4521, a curling river of a road that surges and crests between Abergavenny in Wales and St Owen’s Cross in England, under a canopy of towering trees just between Walson and Skenfrith, two deer flash out of nowhere in front of my car. I see their eyes first, bright white globes at full-beam. I take my foot off the accelerator and grip the steering wheel, turning it as firmly as I can under these new-for-me, giant, black Edward Gorey oaks, silhouettes which will turn silver and sanguine in the next hour of morning, but which for now loom like ghosts, their long fingers twisting, twisting out at me, from a peculiar dream.

The elder deer panics, turns, and starts running towards me.

I brake, praying no one is coming up the other side of the hill, turning the blind corner into this sad twilit scene. Into her. The deer sees me, and stops – I am sure now we locked eyes, her suddenly realising what she had to do – and then she flails, limbs shuffling awkwardly sideways, hurling herself towards her child. I assume it’s her child. They vanish through a gap in the branches to my right, and I go on, firm of hand around the corner, moments before another car, black and speeding, slices into view, lights on fire, engine roaring through the space it quickly owns, a space it quickly owns for three seconds of terror, then just as quickly leaves behind. Seconds later, as if nothing had happened, peace returns.

Where I used to be, life was darkness and noise. I was once like a growing, happy baby in its belly, surrounded by constant sound, embracing it, analysing it, willing it to roll, ruck and boom. Then I got older. I wanted the white corridor, soft sounds, but I didn’t want to die. We moved here as autumn turned to winter, as quiet white early afternoons taught me something new and beautiful about the world, very shortly before that same brightness fell. I like to be home when it falls. At home at night, the darkness is a blanket, high-tog, buttoned with hundreds of bright, dazzling stars. The silence is a comfort, only occasionally shaken by the hoots of an owl, or a train’s lowing horn near the junction at Pontrilas, or a lone car humming, roaring, exploding, disappearing, on the way to Cross Ash.

Being out there at night is different, though. This world is dark and big and new. And when I’m out there, its silence is so fiercely loud.


Read the previous Over The Border post here.

Jude Rogers on Caught by the River / on Twitter