En route to France
On the 7th August JR and I left his 'dreaming spires' (he lives in a converted church) at 5.30 in the morning. The new upper part of his dwelling is made of clean new sweet-smelling wood, and it's on a level with the little windows, divided up into three upper sections and one lower one. So you can see straight outside to the tops of the trees by the river, and over to the hills beyond. There are no sounds except for the calling of birds. This upper level has only recently been created. Before, it was simply the roof, inaccessible and only vaguely seen, the windows grimed with decades of dust, dirt, the home of deceased flies and busy spiders. But with the building of an upper level, the windows were cleaned (I helped to do this) and now you have this spectacular view out over trees, water and hills. Not just the view, but the atmosphere of peace, tranquillity, of a special refuge, which I surmise is because, when this place was a church, people's aspirations would have lifted upwards, and hovered by the windows, and lodged in the roof beams, settled there, high above the meanness and pettiness of Everyday.
It had rained heavily all the day before. To reach this remarkable dwelling, one has to follow a path from the road, which goes over a bridge that crosses the river, and walk several metres through tall grass. A narrow swathe of path has been cut through the grass. When we leave early the next morning, we have too many things to carry in one trip, our bags and backpacks, a guitar and sitar, so JR piles them in a wheelbarrow. A few bats are out late, dart past the doorway in the grey murky dawn. The river has swollen enormously and burst its banks, turning the nearby field into a lake. The church is built on a slight elevation, but the water is very close, another metre and it would enter the 'garden', the patch of grass at the front, surrounded by a railing. A grinning little gargoyle sits on the bench in front of the church, the household guardian.
And so we begin the long drive down through the corridor of England. At first the roads are quiet and empty. The first part of the motorway goes through the Lake District, passes between huge treeless hills, deep green from the rain, and as always, gives a sense of entering a very different territory, like a ritual passageway designed to engender humility in these scrawny beetle-like beings who scud past the mountain sentinels, in their buzzing metal carapaces, ignoring their beauty and sublimity, forgetful of tolls and the mind's high terraces, where some ancient sense of deity might be remembered and acknowledged. Just might be, in these echoing valleys.
And the high places of passage might also be remembered with nostalgia, once you've left them behind, and entered the plains, industrial, crowded with factories and houses, rows and rows of houses, streets falling away underneath the motorway flyovers, the lanes full of traffic, on and on, an endless flow of cars. We stop at services, change drivers, and the passenger dozes. The clouds have vanished, the sun is out, it's hot, and the dreaming passenger sees rose windows of colours and brilliant patterns, behind their closed eyelids.