Today I walked up and down a mountain along a boreen. Under low clouds, the landscape appeared sinuous and silvery in the diffuse light. At some point I picked up a fallen branch. I always find a stick on my walks, for poking, prodding, and anything else a lone woman on a deserted road might require.
Reading Robert Macfarlane’s The Old Ways, I find the author's passion for wild places infectious. I love the idea of taking to the road at night, in all weather, with nothing but the clothes on my back. But I am struck by the fact that the wayfarers he meets or discusses are mostly men. I am not so free, am I? Last summer I got lost while walking alone in the countryside. I realised I didn't know the way when I passed an abandoned schoolhouse, roof caved in and trees growing in its one room. The road was now unfamiliar and lonesome. Once a van passed, causing my heart to flutter. I was alone and vulnerable, surrounded by fields and woods, where bad things could befall a hapless traveler. Children and women go missing, after all. (That "after all", as if referring to a commonplace!)
Nevertheless, I persisted on being lost until the road trailed off at the edge of a spruce plantation. Admitting defeat, I turned around and traced my way back, ringing my husband to find and collect me as my feet were sore and blistered. Sigh.
After my walk today, I helped my husband feed the cattle, mostly suckler cows and two calves, born in the past month. I only see the cows when they're hungry, so all they seem to do is chew and moan for food. But this time, a red cow began to lick the hind of its calf, and then the snout of its stall companion, who closed her eyes in pleasure. If only the fields were dry enough for them to lie and bask in.