Life is an open door

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Posted on May 9, 2013

What's through the doorway?
What's through the doorway?

When you see an open door, do you walk through it?

On the drive back home we had anticipated the usual, familiar journey. But an impromptu stop to look at a hawthorn that caught our eyes led to something completely unexpected.

We noticed a doorway, leading under the road. It beckoned, it held darkness, wonder, the unknown. Curiosity took over, and in we went.

Behind us the land was a pale green slope running down to the river. We turned to the doorway and bent down to crawl through, into the dark. On the other side we stepped into a different world: rocks, trees, primroses, wood

Primroses in the rocks
Primroses in the rocks

anemones, wild strawberry plants. We were on the dry river bed, and could see ahead of us a gorge lined with hazel, birch, rowan and holly, all with young leaves radiant with spring.

Something drew us on: curiosity, the pull of beauty, the promise of something beyond the next bend. The tight gorge in the hill felt utterly separate from the grasslands above: completely hemmed in, with steep sides of rock coated in mosses and ferns. Here and there the rocks became grassy banks awash with primroses.

Every now and then the gentle trickle of water reminded us that after rain this chasm can become a frightening and inaccessible place, gushing with white water carrying sticks, logs, stones and even whole trees. But with the evening sun teasing its way through the trees and the rocks dry beneath our feet, it was a feast of gentle beauty, a surprise, a delight.

We kept climbing, sometimes having to secure reliable hand-holds and lever ourselves up sheer rock faces. After one steep scramble we emerged into a deep bowl where the earth curved over our heads, an overhanging ceiling of rock split by water, frost and time yet held together somehow, and covered with lichen that glistened like crystals. Beneath us, within the quartz seams that wrinkled like pleats in a young girl’s skirt we counted the passage of time in thousands of years.

Secret world
Secret world

We climbed and climbed – could not stop, curiosity too strong, wonder making us drink in the scene like hungry children. At the top of the gully where the hill closes in to make a final wall and a thin trickle of water seeps through the earth, we edged our way cautiously up a narrow , muddyledge towards the canopy of rowans and birches. Beyond these, we emerged into full sunshine, onto the grassy fell. The world of the gorge was once again hidden, and secret.

We have driven past this magical spot probably a hundred times in the last six months, and never seen it. Now, it is lodged in our minds, and we know there is more exploring to be done: wherever there is an open doorway.

But it’s not all about the wonder of discovery or the childlike joy of exploring. There are questions too. Would more of this land – could more of this land – be covered in trees, flowers, ferns and wonder, if there were a more workable balance with grazing? This is something that has been in my thoughts for many months, and has been preoccupying me a lot since  meeting Pete Leeson of the Woodland Trust, as part of the Land Keepers documentary project. I am convinced that the issue  is not one of this or that, or all or nothing, but one of finding balance. And I know that’s no easy task. I will be musing about that before too long in the Land Keepers blog.

Until then, as Rob often says: Stay Curious, and Keep Exploring ...

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