Tuesday, 7 September 2010

The Hills of Home.

Just looking through some portfolios
 I came across this watercolour sketch of the valley "back home"
 in South Wales, 
as glimpsed between
 the bare branches of the trees 
that line one of my favourite walks.

I think if you have ever
 lived among hills
 you will always miss them.

Where else can you get
 so many changing vistas
 and horizons
 than on even the shortest walk among hills?
Then again living amongst hills
 lends distance and perspective to your life 
because it's so easy to literally look down on the small corner
 that usually hems you in.
One of my delights from a youngster was
 to watch the progress of a storm of rain
 as it swept down the valley,
 or made it's sudden dash from the hills opposite 
to directly overhead
 in the matter of moments.
Sometimes I would
watch a small shower move along
 for all the world as though an invisible watering can
 was plotting a route
 specifically over selected patches,
 leaving all else dry.
 A handful of rain 
just thrown about for mischief's sake.
At other times 
there's the beauty of the hills
when frosted or snowed over. 
Stretches of leafless trees, 
overlaid with their tracery of white;
 giant lace shawls
 flung over the curvaceous shoulders of the hills.
Ribbons of cold air hold the white mantel in place,
 while warm currents of air,
 or flashes of sun may fall,
 leaching the glory
 to a dismal black and grey.
Similarly the frost line can be seen
 receding up the hills
 as the warming progress of the day
creeps in a dark tidemark 
up the valley sides.
Most of all
there's the cosiness of the houses
 tucked in their serried ranks along the hillsides.
 Sometimes the hills can accommodate 
whole streets of houses
 strung along the steep banks,
 tier upon tier. 
Here and there folds and bowls
hold just a single dwelling, 
or a few cheek-by-jowl homes, 
peeping, surprised, from their green setting.
Living on a hillside means
 you are either on the sunny,
 or shady side of the valley.
Whichever side of the hill you are on,
 you know that to be perched above the valley floor
 is infinitely superior to
 living in the narrow valley bottom 
where the sun disappears early,
 if it gets to you at all. 

Walking the valley from one end to the other 
you track the course of the sun,
seeing where it lingers , 
or where the shadows are most wont to fall early.
Driving around the valley is a different ball game entirely.
 The roads are perforce usually narrow and winding,
 often steep,
 Scary to those unfamiliar with valley life.
On one particular road carrying loads of visitors to
 a well known beauty spot in season,
 there is a tight hairpin bend on a very steep gradient.
 Locals know just when to change gear to negotiate it,
 but "townies," having no such skill 
often miss the moment, 
 slithering ignominiously backwards
 as their tyres fail to gain purchase
on the drifts of gravel
 washed down over the road surface
 by the rain.
Now, returning for a visit 
it is I who am nervous,
 as I drive the narrow twists and turns,
 expecting one of my compatriots
 to fling their vehicle nonchalantly around a blind bend 
straight at me
much as I used to do myself
so many years ago. 

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