The road out of Sheffield begins to climb almost immediately, rising steadily until the lights of the city are left far behind and you reach the moors. You do not realise how high you are, over a thousand feet above sea level, by the time the houses fall away and the hills surround you. This morning, though, there would be no heart-lifting sight of them to greet me. The darkness was complete; only the sharp crescent of the moon and the distant, sulphurous glow of streetlamps lit the rolling silhouettes of the hills. Even so, I feel them, as if the shadowed darkness in which they have slept has strengthened their presence. I do not need the light for the touch of wild earth to take a reluctant farewell, a lingering touch in the depths of my being.
It would be an hour before the dawn would light the touch-paper of flame across the horizon. By then I would have crossed that invisible barrier between the wild places and the tamed and be approaching yet another intangible crossing where ancient stone gives way to brick and mortar and the simple beauty of the stars becomes the aggression of oncoming headlights. Another version of reality takes over and the journey back is no longer a journey home.
My body performs the mechanical movements that carry the car southwards while my mind runs over a weekend that had sung sunshine into the golden autumn days. Once again we had managed to do far more in the little time available than we had any right to be able to do. By ignoring the constraining hands of the clock somehow time seems to take a holiday until the Monday morning alarm sounds.
It was another full hour before I again pulled over, camera in hand. By this time I was in a small village just north of Lichfield. For some time the sky had been aglow with colour, changing from a streak of molten gold to a silken screen of rainbow hues. It was a beautiful dawn, too lovely to miss with the depressing greyness of the motorway all too close. A dove watched with me from the branches above my head, her breast flushed pink by the sun’s first kiss. Even Monday mornings can hold the seeds of beauty and that is a thought worth carrying forward into the day.