I have swapped the tyranny of the clock for the timelessness of the countryside – exchanging punctuated, punctured instants with seamless, flowing moments, one fading into another and another.
How long does it take to…? An imprecise answer only, will suffice.
How long will it take to walk up the combe? Begin the steady climb up the muddied path between the close-knit trees, not yet garbed in spring’s fresh leaves, but yet layered thinly with moss and lichen. Pause to stop at that tree on the edge of the track – its smooth trunk surely must be hugged. Listen to the gurgling, bubbling brook tumbling its way down the hollow. Climb higher, above the treeline and see – yes, over there, a herd of wild deer, russet against the old bracken, stopping and looking back, regal, alert, ears honed to your sound. Watch them as they move, grazing, foraging, feeding, steady up the hillside, til they silhouette the skyline. See the moisture-laden clouds drift over, and shelter under the holly canopy, trunk smoothed down and full, and the so soft moss carpet – a throne awaiting your presence, fanfared by the skylarks melodying their royal symphony. For you. Here. Now.
Your great task of the day may be to stake the young apple tree, keeling over from last year under the weight of its fruit. Or to take the vegetable peelings from the kitchen to the compost heap, uncovering the mound and putting today’s offering into the magical mix, which, damp and deprived of light, will become rich and fertile soil while sometimes sheltering voles and grass snakes. Or your task may be to chop the wood, perhaps even to collect it, and split it into smaller wedges or slice it into kindling and sort it into piles and carry it to the wicker basket at the side of the grate.
How long will it be til it is warm in the evening’s dark? It will be warm when the fire is laid; when the flames lick and curl and dance round the logs in yellow and orange and blue, to the crackling sound and the base-line hum of the burning wood.
It will be when it will be.