I. Foxy’s Passage
Earlier today I discovered a café that delivers coffee in the form of sacrament. Two espresso shots later, I can amble through the forest like it’s nothing. In all honesty, I respect the Lord’s preference of wine for the Last Supper, but wish that I had been there to aid in his selection. I would have surely offered a stronger form of liquid encouragement.
II. Simon and the South Downs
As the slate of dirt draws on, I wonder about Mr. DeMontforte. Maybe he’s walking next to me at this very moment, soaking in the quiet. Accepting of my greater interest in his footsteps than his story.
III. Charleston’s Peak
Michael Cunningham once said, “Your feelings will never be unacceptable.” This was proclaimed during his reading at the literary festival. Afterwards, he signed my copy of By Nightfall with yet another motivating message. He seems a decent man and writer. Hell, I may even take up his advice in telling me not to panic.
IV. Glynde is a Toilet
Nature doesn’t judge. Take a nice shit and it’ll fancy you as an oversize sheep making use of its massive lawn.
V. Bank Holiday at Monk’s
After treading through the wet, I cannot blame Virginia Woolf for having bi-polar disorder. Who could remain stable in these severely varying weather conditions? The forecast promised only a 60% chance of miserable for this afternoon and I had hoped for some good old English sun to make an appearance. Needless to say, I have been let down. Twelve miles of endless shadow clouds and sweat, and I’m feeling rather emotional. Perhaps I will stick my face in the river.
VI. Souls of Ashcombe
There’s a scatter of footprints all across the path. I wonder if I share the same outline as anyone else, and who these people were. If they crossed these grounds as soldiers, maybe even as students, taking to the land the way shoes take to mud.
VII. Heaven is a Castle
Today, I will skip the trail to Kingston Ridge, and head to the nearest church. My grandma will be waiting in a middle pew. She will hold me in the quiet as I cry. I will hold her in my thoughts as I pray. When we look up, the stained glass will paint our eyes with colors. I will not see the skeleton of figures. Instead, those panels will reflect her spirit. And the light will reach through, right through me, just before taking her with it.
VIII. Plumpton Goods
We’ve made a pub stop to the Half Moon, because a long afternoon hike is always made more enjoyable with a bench rest and a cloudy cider. It still strikes me as strange that the English eat their “chips” with mayo, but then again, Americans eat their weight in anything, so I guess I shouldn’t judge.
IX. Barcombe Mills and Company
A flock of birds sit atop a tree that appears to be draped in dust, rich with gold. There are roses at the bottom, and their raised stems that curl around the bark. At my side, the voices are low and lovely, discussing the flavor of crisps. Each woman at this table has a mouth curved to suit the shade of soft crimson. They are all so vibrant. Place these girls on a branch and it won’t matter if they’re singing, or shouting. You won’t be able to imagine such beauty existing anywhere else.
X. Take the Lead
Henry David Thoreau was the first to put to words what I have always known of life: “The only people who ever get anywhere interesting are the people who get lost.” Each trek through the countryside has taught me that to be alive, well, this provides opportunity to explore immeasurable pathways. I do not know which ones I will follow, but I must confess, I cannot wait to find out where they will take me.
Lewes is mostly moody skies, and smells of wet, which is comforting. There’s especially something about the silence after a sudden drizzle, how the sunlight yawns if only for a moment just before falling back asleep again. Up ahead, green hills and quaint houses stretch for miles in the distance, and these lands, all rusted earth and foreign residents, call to you.
The station is mostly full, and it’s surprising to see the younger ones walking without parents and talking with such purpose; old souls trapped in children’s bodies. A cigarette sits in a boy’s mouth as he inhales a drag and blows out smoke and conversation. His friends let out hearty laughs, filling the entire open space with loud. The tracks capture the last of the echoes.
When the train pulls up, you can see your almost-smile through the glass, contorted by all the seated passengers. Inside, the coach is clean and strange, without a single graffiti mark or piss stain. Only the strangers feel familiar. You see parts of yourself in all of them, with their far away eyes and leave-me-the-fuck-alone headphones, bags of novels and notebooks and outdated pictures. Their sweaters are soaked, surely, but only yours reeks of travel.
You take a seat by the window. The showers have picked up again and the flight is catching up to you. Your fingers are sore from carrying parts of yourself halfway around the world, and the luggage sits at your feet, heavy as the fatigue. You stare through the window, waiting for sleep, watching the dark set in slow and stubborn. Thinking of these men and women, with their teenage daughters and baby carriages, you wonder if they grew up in these parts. Or if they too, come from miles away just to take refuge in vehicles, still searching for home in unknown places and people.