There are days that begin so beautifully that every action seems like an act of meditation, prayer, even pegging out clean washing on the line in a warm garden where honeysuckle twines around the last remnant of summer.
I walk, out from the house and up the hill. I can’t remember learning to walk, first steps. I can remember walking with my dad in the tame wildslands of the Cotswolds and the Malvern Hills, looking for skylarks, setting up hares.
When I moved to Pembrokeshire walking became part of my working life. Footfalls through landscape would help gather up , step by step, thoughts for writing, painting. Locked inside my head, turning ideas around and around like sea smoothing stones on a beach, constantly moving eating miles with my feet.
And then I began walking with cats, not on purpose, but the cats began to follow me and Bella my small bear of a raggedy mongrel ( which is what dogs were called before posh people started calling them cockerpoos or labradoodles). Through the fields to the top of the hill or up the greenlane where we would sit together and watch cloud shadows chase the wind over the land, a curious tribe, pack, pride of human, dog, cat.
Cats do not walk as people do. They take each moment a step at a time. They see even the smallest movement in the grass. For no reason known to man they will sit and stare, lost in a moment, a movement. The cats would hunt mice in the long grass while I would hunt words with my mind. And they would make me slow down, try to teach me patience, how to look.
So, today I walk in the early autumn. The wind twisted trees still hold tight to green leaves. Spiders make webs across badger tracks and they catch the sunlight. In long grass butterflies weave colourful pathways and on the hill’s high top I stop for a while to watch while two young kestrels challenge a slate backed peregrine for a piece of the sky. For a while he is winning but then a parent bird rages in screaming and drives him away.
We walk now, my old dog and I. On the edge of the wind I think I can hear the mewing of ghost cats, but perhaps it’s just a buzzard. At the land’s edge the people of the sea have come to pup, seals children white against the stones, parents almost invisible with their mottled coats of fur. We listen awhile to their calling then walk on.
Bare paws touch the earth. There were days when I walked this far with a chain of ginger cats following. Today there is just me and Bella. You can scent autumn on the salt wind, see autumn in the dog’s eyes and I can feel autumn in my bones. Precious days.