2017 ended very locally. Very beautifully, very painfully, very strangely.
In November, my lover took me away on a surprise trip to Dartmoor National Park. I have written about this phenomenon before – of going away without knowing where. And of how much I love it, and live for it, never knowing, never preparing. But what made it even better was the Wistman’s Wood. The forest I had forgotten about for two years. And suddenly, there it was, at our doorstep. The weather was gloriously moody, yet not serious. There was more light than rain. The gnarliness of Wistman’s Wood was even better because we had not expected it.
This is how my first Dartmoor visit stays with me: utterly gorgeous autumn lanes, forever meandering, forever narrow. Huge fir trees escaping towards skies, while tiny ones held themselves closer to the ferns. The famous tors were there just like in story books, and we climbed one. I will remember the nighttime mists, the flood lights and shadows we projected to the skies. The boggy meadows where you should keep to the paths. But of course, you do not.
I saw my first ever badger crossing the road we were walking on, saw a sudden stone cross appearing from the mists, hares jumping across rivers. It was a perfect trip, filled with stepping stones, late autumn moods, warm rooms, villages more real than Hobbiton, pubs more cosy than a goose mother could dream up in her feathery bed (and with actual geese and chicken visiting us at our table), amazing scones in a pub and just happiness, without the words ever getting used or thought about.
And in December, a trip to Cotswolds followed with friends. It was supposed to be a quiet one, I know. Just relaxing, just sitting by the fireplace, going for short countryside walks, and all those things people do in Castle Combe. Drink sherry. Gently mock the lawn of the golf course. Yet somehow, I was never there in my mind.
Once again, we got amazing weather for the entire trip, from Lacock to Castle Combe and beyond. I was tired. I was confused. I just never fucking recognise when the seasonal depression kicks in. I have become quicker at recognising it, for sure; now it takes me a couple of weeks to discover what is going on. Not that the heureka is the highlight of my month, but at least then I know. But being around friends and trees is always so good. Even if you might as well not be there. But maybe it does make a difference. You just can’t tell because of your disturbed brain chemistry. But what definitely helps is the sun, the neolithic stone formations, old mounds and trees with visible root carpets. And the goodness of people. And some ale.
And that was how 2017 ended. All together, around 30 days spent walking, so a wonderful year filled with mountaints from Scotland to Wales and Uzbekistan. Not to mention the coasts and the forests. Yup. All will be good. Also this time.