Caught by the River

Over The Border #7

Jude Rogers | 15th September 2017

In her latest column from the Welsh Borders, Jude Rogers considers the sensation of fear

I woke this morning to darkness. To nothing – then the jolt. Over the short, summer nights, the curtains have been open, partly to see the moon’s wide open eye when heading to bed, so often lighting up the sky a strange moody blue, like it’s barely evening let alone midnight, then watching it moving like a glowing, round snail from the back of the garden, round the sheds, round the trees, past the garage, out of sight. It’s also been good to see the stars, all too often lost in our old city’s phosphorus-orange, atmospheric skies. They’re now regular friends, perceptible pinpricks of fire and life. I’ve got used to waking early, looking outside in the slow, early hours of the morning, catching a glimpse of the soft, loping hills that appear as soon as an eyelid prises open, to the view of clouds skirting over the bottom of the valley at 5am, to a reminder that I am now here, and not elsewhere.

But this morning, there was nothing. The shape of a window in shadow. Empty, gaping blackness outside.

A writer friend of mine tweeted recently about how rarely nature writers write about fear. It made me think about how this column has been my way of bridging a drastic change in my life, and not just one grounded in different experiences of nature and landscape. I moved out here because of fear, after a fashion. London was making me anxious and itchy, its dark, dimly-lit streets losing their romance, a romance replaced in my mind by a restless, limb-twitching nervousness. I hated that. I had felt like a buccaneer there in my early days, Boadicea on her horse throwing off all of her clothes. Now I kept my head down, pulled my collar up, hurried on.  The city, and its noise, and its energy, had left me a rabbit no longer hitting her drum, being wound down.

But I also moved into fear. Into a place we’d only first visited three months previously. Where we knew barely a soul. Where we had no visible next-door neighbours. Where trees grew eerily high, then hung dauntingly low, where darkness fell onto strange, unknown lanes, twisting and dipping and bumping in unfamiliar patterns, where fogs appeared then disappeared then reappeared and thickened and hardened like steel and refused to lift for minutes, which then felt like hours, then days. I’ll never forget those first few weeks here, spending every moment with my heart in my mouth, and the journeys I’d take in my car before dawn, embarking on a journey I barely knew, that held hindrances, obstacles and hurdles that I couldn’t yet recognise, let alone understand.

Now it is September. Crops are towering in the fields, or lying lacerated. The mechanical judders of the field machines, the harvester’s teeth, are the season’s soundtrack. When the days started to lengthen earlier this year, I felt like I was taking the world’s biggest breath in, letting everything inside me pour out. But now it is dark before nine. It is dark until six. I have to remember these pathways are no longer unchartered, that the hurdles have already been encountered, and cleared. Still, behind that wide open eye, in those clouds, in those hills, something unseemly still glows.


See previous Over The Border posts here.

Jude Rogers on Caught by the River / on Twitter