I am over-teched.
Much of my life involves working at a PC, typing reports, dealing with email. Many of my communities are online. The classes I take happen in virtual space, where I am unsettled by the inability to feel into the energy around me.
The morning’s work completed I push the rest into tomorrow’s schedule and tie on my shoes. Come with me.
I walk up the road, it’s a cul-de-sac of 1940’s, red-brick, semi-detached council houses. Many still sport utilitarian privet hedges, of various heights and neatness. At the top we join a main road and turn left, crossing over at the bus shelter, favourite haunt of teens on a mid-week evening, littered with cigarette butts and sweet wrappers. On a school day this is a busy stretch, virtually impassable at the end of the classroom day, but for now the road stretches out, a sleepy, serpent coiling it’s way up and across the downs, mirroring the grey sky above.
I take the path left here, between hedges, next to the school. I can make out their outdoor classroom with fire pit, a perspex bike shed, and the windows of the classroom I taught in ten years ago. The track is muddy and my shoes slide. After a few hundred yards there is a gate to the left and we enter the field. The space feels immense, a vast opening, wind-ruffled grasses bent flat, a single line of telegraph poles crossing the centre. Ahead I can see the red-brick water tower, one of the few reminders of the asylum which used to crown the hill, housing upwards of two thousand souls at its busiest, now an estate of executive homes.
The path crosses the field to the horizon, climbing gently. At the crest a valley opens up before us. Bare earth of ploughed fields, farms and orchards, a lane snaking away to woodland on the opposing hillside. I stop to watch a skylark, whirring its way upwards at full voice, then hanging suspended a second before the wind takes it across the green and away.
We walk down now, watching our footing to avoid turning ankles on protruding flints. A large, honey coloured retriever bounds across to say hello and then away again.
Past an old and derelict barn, barely more than rusted iron held together by gravity, we leave the field by a gate and join the lane, mud-spattered from farm vehicles. There is the scent of damp earth and leaf mould. In autumn this would make me think of death, but now it speaks of the food for new life. The verges are full of yellow; dandelions, daffodils, celandines. Past a converted oast and two cottages, clad in red tile. The pony foal, almost a year old now, comes to say hello, he is covered in mud, but deigns to let us rub his nose, before nuzzling your pocket for apples…
Turning right we are headed back towards the village, we pass a farm with Dexter cows and geese in the field. The air is full of the purposeful drone of bumblebee queens, rummaging in the verges and banks for nest sites. The sun breaks through the clouds bringing radiance and sheen to the spring blooms. Up the hill, past the sheep field and well-manicured lawns outside bungalows and back onto the main road. At one time this was a pilgrim way, just over the next rise you would catch your first sight of Canterbury Cathedral.
It’s holiday season and the traffic is light. A woodlouse makes its way purposefully across the pavement, a graphite-grey apostrophe, armour clad. Blossom is emerging on garden trees and buds break out of the wood, tipping the trees with green. We pass the footpath we took half an hour ago and head back down the hill to home, reconnected, body and soul.