Monday, 28 September 2015

Orange Silk and Green Hills

At 8.30am this morning I was strolling along the edge of a lake with my dad, our boots slowly soaked through by wet grass. There were spiders-webs on the thistles – each strand perfectly picked out by dew and light. Dad had his camera with him, and kept stopping to catch this bird or that reflection in the water. Looking ahead, everything was soft and slightly blurred by mist. Looking behind, it was all blue sky and bright sun.

I scrabbled around by the trees looking for conkers. Those wonderful, prickly green shells have already begun falling. There’s a knack to cracking them open. You have to find a point on either side where you can grip without lacerating your fingertips on the spikes, then squeeze hard. Each shell divides perfectly into segments. Sometimes you only need one to come loose. Sometimes you’ll need to totally dissect the shell, pulling apart those spongy white wedges in turn. Either way, there’ll be treasure in the middle – a wonderfully smooth, shiny, lopsided blob of brown. A conker. Doesn’t matter how many years I’ve done this now. There’s still a fresh sense of magic in the way they fit in a palm like sea-washed pebbles.

Today I collected nine, clutching them together like treasure. They perfectly matched my suede sleeves. A handful of glossy, solid satisfaction. Maybe that’s what I marvel at most. There they are – hidden away in their funny big jacket of bristles, so small and so strong. They’re hardy little buggers though. No wonder plenty of playground games used to revolve around smashing them together. In fact, when I was at primary school, one of the songs that our music teacher rolled out every autumn (without fail) included a raucous chorus beginning: “conkers! I’m collecting conkers! I’m trying hard to find the biggest and the best!” Unsurprisingly, they’ve become part of that general set of images we associate with autumn, taking their place alongside orange leaves and warm firesides and hot mugs of tea. I like conkers in particular though because they’re seeds – nothing but burnished potential.

As you may be able to tell, this weekend I caught a last gasp of the countryside – returning home and throwing myself back among the trees and sharp air and sun-warmed paths for the last time before uni begins. I rarely miss it when I’m away, only realizing on return how much I’m still a countryside girl. I’ve had three days full of gold-stubble fields, woods dappled with late afternoon light, valleys dotted with hay-bales, and hill-top views that stretch for mile upon mile.

I also tend to forget how exhilarated it all makes me feel. It’s an intriguing mix of memory, familiarity, and possibility: all the resonances of past escapades (walks and den-building sessions and hours spent exploring), and a sense of what’s ahead to enjoy (a part of me still harbours a very fanciful, flighty urge to run away to a tumble-down cottage and just write poetry all day). There’s also a sense of being grounded and brought back down to the immediate: an in-the-moment-here-I-am-nothing-exists-but-this-sunny-afternoon kind of sensation. Maybe we all need a bit more of that.

This time last year, I had tea with a friend in Hyde Park – she’d brought along a flask in her bag. We sat outside and chatted and drank and ate dark chocolate. As we got up to leave, brushing grass seeds from our legs, she picked up a conker and said I should keep it, because it would always remind me of that afternoon. It’s now sitting in a martini glass (among my jewellery, obviously…) in my new room in Oxford. She was right. Every time I see it, I recall that day vividly. I have a feeling that the same thing may happen with those nine conkers I scavenged this morning. I left them scattered on my desk at home. They’ll stay there for a while. Mementoes of nothing particularly extraordinary - just a bright misty morning and a brief moment of calm.

My mum took these photos in one of our favourite spots. I've been dragged up this hill since I was tiny. Now I'm a little more willing to climb to the top... I'd planned a whole outfit around the dress (those images will come at another point), but there was something so magnificent about the simplicity of this. We just had to leave it as is, and soak up that magnificent light. 


Helen Le Caplain said...

There aren't many people who would wear an orange silk dress to go marching up a hill - I'm so glad you're one of them :)

Orange and green is such a lovely colour combination - gorgeous pics.

Funny you mention conkers as I collected my first one of the season yesterday. I love how smooth they feel and the delicious deep brown colour.

Looking forward to seeing the other photos!

Helen x

The Velvet Panoply said...

The countryside looks beautiful and inviting. And you yourself are very lovely in this warm orange dress. Sometimes simple is best! :)

Vix said...

The orange dress looks utterly magical against the magnificent countryside backdrop.
I love that your friend handed you that conker to remind you of a day well spent. I've an acorn I keep in my coat pocket which forever takes me back to a chilly midsummer walk. xxx

Lola Byatt said...

This post was so beautiful read, Rosalind! I loved every word :) I had a very similar feeling this morning when I was driving in. I love driving up this long stretch of road and I'm normally always stuck in traffic at am so I just get to admire my surroundings. The entire road is framed with trees which are now in full colour change, tinges of orange and red. I love seeing the dog walkers and the small groups of small school children with massive smiles on their faces or the eager runners always giving me a sense of umph even though I'm cooped up in my car sipping warm tea from my flask. The small moments taking in everything are the best. xx

Ivana Split said...

stunning seem to be one with the nature, there is this feeling of peace that I really like. Another thing that impressed me (besides your natural beauty) is the way this orange dress catches the eye....phenomenal photographs...

so sweet you have been visiting this place with your parents ever since you were little. I just love hills! I often climb them...there are a lot of mountains where I'm from and I visited them many times but I never climbed them just because that would take some time and preparation (and hard work, I'm not sure I'm fit enough for a real climb)...but there is something so charming about hills. They enamble even those of us who will probably never be mountain climbers to enjoy hiking as well as that feeling of wonderfully soothing isolation one experiences on a top of a hill or a mountain.

Melanie said...

Your orange against that backdrop is stunning. What a great way to spend time with your mum, taking photos in the countryside. And with your dad wandering about the lakeside as well. I saw a girl collecting conkers yesterday. She was wearing a pretty bright red coat and assuring her mum, don't worry mum, I have biiiig pockets. It was a moment.


I cherish memories like this, I miss visiting the countryside to my parent's place. What a special dress, the cut and colour is so striking -- even more stunning on you as well. My sister used to collect conkers when we'd take summer walks on the way to my cousin's house. The sunlight in these photos are really enchanting. x

Jean at said...

Never heard of conkers! I can see and feel them, however, as I read this post. Beautiful as always, and I'm happy you're able to share this loveliness with your parents.

As I say goodbye to my parents, and others of their generation, I'm so keenly aware of the ephemeral nature of life. My 92 yr old mom asks for her parents at night, wanting them to know where she is, wanting them to tuck her into bed. My heart breaks as i assure her they know where she is, and that it's okay if I tuck her in.

I know how very proud your parents must be of your intelligence and kindness, striving to make a difference in this world, in your time frame. I'm grateful too. XXOO

Yukova said...

Beautiful shots, you look so idyllic amongst the grasses.
Yukova x

Frenie Agbayani said...

Great sewing patterns and the color look amazing on you, it fits so well too!