I think it’s the weather. Gales, pelting hard rain, delayed trains, bad internet and mobile reception. Everything is bitty today; but oddly vivid.
Today I shall be short and sharpish. The weather is making me feel unmoored; the clouds are moving very fast. They are grey and heavy but look like smoke. I want to go out in my wellies, and follow the smoke. Like I did ages ago, on the school trip where I got separated from everyone else.
Swanage. A long walk. Over the fields and to the shore, along the beach.
The Deputy Head, whatever her name was (it’s on the tip of my tongue), had gone so far ahead, with her stiff, oddly loping tall body. All we could see of her was the plume of her cigarillo, in the far distance. She was a real bluestocking woman, an intrepid explorer. I liked her.
I got separated from my best friend. And I was enjoying it. Maybe we had argued. What I wanted was to walk endlessly, and feel the striding of my body. While I breathed evenly with the pace. I wanted to be real and in the landscape, all exertion and sweat. Around me, the groups of girls faded – some ahead, not many; most behind in small groups. Was Tashia (always the great divisive element) there? Can’t remember. Just remember that I was alone, deliberately, imagining I was following the trail left by the Deputy Head and her plume, which I think I imagined I could still see but I couldn’t.
So in effect, I was just going where I wanted, where I thought it may have been logical for her to go earlier. I don’t remember the scenery – lots of open fields, endless and green. I don’t remember the smell. I do remember the wonderful sense of walking through it. Endless. Right. Me, under sky, feet on ground, not cold.
Then came the moment where I realised I was lost, when I was walking across the top of the cliff, and I looked down and saw everyone else walking across the beach. I was so far up and they couldn’t hear me when I called.
I had somehow gone completely the wrong way.
I made my way along the cliff edge and back a little to a row of white houses. I knocked on a door that was ajar…or maybe I went round the back to the garden? No, I went in through the door, I remember the sensation of gentle danger, going into a stranger’s house uninvited. The trust in me.
An old couple were there. I don’t remember them at all, except that they were dressed in worn pastel coloured things: buff and gentle, old and kind, like them.
I explained I was lost. I was very polite. They called the trip centre. They gave me a drink and some biscuits. They showed me how to get down to the beach. I was completely safe and looked after.
I have never experienced anything like it, before or since.
The universe looked after me, when I was lost, as I thought it would.
On bad days, I think I don’t have that trust anymore, that I’m lost. On good days, I know I will always be walking. Regardless of whether I am lost. I am in the landscape, and whole; I am green and walk onward always. I think to keep walking is what's important.