Sunday, December 14, 2014

Moving On

Seven weeks in one place! In a way it seems strange to be packing up again; I actually unpacked my suitcase when I arrived, putting things in closets and drawers, rather than just using the suitcase as a storage unit for my clothes, as I'd been doing since mid-July. I'll probably do the same in London, since I'll only be there for a few weeks. The bus leaves Exeter at 10:45 Tuesday morning, and Chris is being kind enough to drive me there to catch it, rather than to Totnes, which is closer to here, but which would add an hour to my onboard time.

I took Hebe out for one last long sunny walk yesterday, to Aveton Gifford this time, a direction we'd not gone before. It's another small village about two miles away by road, though a five-mile round trip using the public byways and footpaths and bridleways. We did end up on the road for a bit by accident, when I took the wrong turning out of a farmyard, but got back on the bridleway after only 15 minutes of squeezing up against hedges every time a car came by. The road's a lot busier on a Saturday than during the week. The bridleways were fairly easy to follow when they went in and out of fields, because of the beaten-down hoofprinted areas in the grass, but when I came to the turning for the footpath that led due south to the village, there was nothing more than a signpost pointing vaguely in that direction, towards several hundred acres of sheep-filled field. "The gate's somewhere over there," it seemed to say. "Just keep walking and you'll find it eventually." Which I did (eventually) though it was a stile and not a gate. Hebe ducked through the opening between the hedge and the post while I climbed over, and fortunately she was able to squeeze through the bottom wedge of the next stile, but at the third there was no alternative but climbing over. I hauled on her collar as she scrabbled her back legs against the slippery steps, and she got hung up for a few seconds at the top, but made it over safely if ungracefully on her butt. I was a bit worried that she'd be stiff this morning, but she was running around happily in the upper field before we came back down to let the ducks and geese out. I'm a bit stiff, but am stretching my legs and back whenever I get up from the computer to do a bit more packing.

The sky's overcast again, after yesterday's sun. I took deep breaths of the cold clean air as I walked, looking out over the stream-filled valleys, often hearing nothing but the sound of my shoes swishing through the grass and the dog panting next to me and the last leaves rustling in the copses at the tops of hills. It'll be quite a change, navigating the packed sidewalks of Picadilly surrounded by people instead of sheep. I'm looking forward to it.

Georgina and Chris and I will have a farewell feast this evening - I'm going to make stuffed mushrooms with basil and gluten-free breadcrumbs, and a salad of marinated baby bell peppers and arugula. I hope the skies clear after the sun goes down; I'd like to get out and watch the Geminid meteor showers. It will be harder to see the stars in London.


On November nights the moon
lit and shadowed hedge trees,
pillared the lane as he walked.
Stars littered the sky over the moor,
he shouted constellations,
hunted with Orion
rode Charles’s Wain.

He understood time like Kepler,
measured it easy
as counting sheep or stars.

The sheep skulls he found
and ranged on shelves
confirmed the endurance of bone.

- "Stars" by Devon poet Anne Born (1924 - 2011)

Friday, December 12, 2014

9 12 12 50 360

December 12, 2005: Portland, Oregon

Back in 2005 I was in Portland, renting a house from a handsome man I had quite the crush on - he had the most fantastic ass; I just wanted to bite it like an apple - and playing with two cats, experimenting with online dating sites (thus this photo), and trying to make a living as a contract technical writer. The handsome man already had a beautiful girlfriend, the dating experience was generally very weird, and the economy at the time did not lend itself to lucrative writing gigs, or at least not how I was going about it, apparently. A friend on the southern Oregon coast rented a room to me and my cats for six months or so, while I was trying to figure out what the hell I was going to do for work. In one of a long string of "hey, that sounds interesting" decisions I've made over the decades I left the digital world for the sweet funk of a dairy on the central Oregon coast, where beavers built dams across the swampy sides of the Siletz River that occasionally flooded the road from which I took this picture of creative field art.

December 12, 2006: Logsden, Oregon

It was one of the best decisions I've ever made, though it didn't lead to anything I expected, least of all a career as the owner of a bed and breakfast. Or any career at all, frankly, though I'm still working on that part. One thing became clear to me, however: I wanted to live in Europe, and for more than six months at a stretch. France, by preference. And so I went back to Portland, determined to finish my degree, though again this veered away from what that degree originally was, Japanese Language and Literature.

December 12, 2007: Portland, Oregon

When I got a postcard two years ago from my host mother in Tokyo, where in 1994 I was still trying to complete that original degree, I learned that Yoko McClain, my first Japanese teacher at the University of Oregon, had died. Professor McClain was so kind to me. She was kind to all of her students, and made that intricate language more approachable by her unfailing good humor and her trademark phrase when explaining a matter of grammar, "All what you have to do is ..." But she was especially kind in my case when she erased the three semesters of Fs and Us from my transcript that appeared after I essentially said FU to school in general and lost my way, my mind (temporarily), and my motivation about halfway through that year abroad. She turned them all into Ws instead, so while it's on record that I withdrew from university life, my grades escaped mostly unharmed, which helped when I finally went back for a degree in French Language and Literature from the University of Portland nearly thirty years later. Until I was googling around while writing this post today, I didn't know that Professor McClain's grandfather was Natsume Sōseki, whose rather depressing 1914 novel Kokoro I remember reading for one of my literature classes. I liked the books by female authors more: Sawako Ariyoshi's The Doctor's Wife, Fumiko Enchi's Masks, and especially Bonchi, written by Toyoko Yamasaki, who died last year. None of her obituaries mention the book, but I enjoyed it so much that I kept the book after I left school, and reread it many times over the years.

December 12, 2008: Portland, Oregon

Another book I enjoyed was Snow Country, by Yasunari Kawabata. Isolation and love and carelessness and devotion, all wrapped in fragile strands of mono no aware, the wistful acknowledgement and appreciation of the transitory beauty of life. Years melt away in minutes, the falling days (each with their own individual beauty) becoming drops in the endless flow of time.

kyou made wa                up until today
mada naka-zora wa        they were only half empty
yuki no kumo                  all those snow-filled clouds

- Matsuo Bashō (1644 – 1694)

Bashō died when he was 50; I'm 50 now, and wonder sometimes how many more years I have before I dissolve again. Even after all of those sermons and songs at St. Stephen's I never did come to any conclusion about what might come next, but I like to think that there's something still ahead, here and in whatever the beyond might be.

Angus might be there waiting for me, my beloved kittyboy, whose image on this screen is still blurred by my tears as much as my inability to remember to switch the camera to the "capture fast movement" setting, especially when there's a googly-eyed cat enjoying a fresh catnip slug to photograph.

December 12, 2009: Kīlauea Overlook, Hawai'i

Rocks are melting and flowing, changing the face of the planet, carving wrinkles and folds like the lines around my eyes and the cellulite around my thighs, neither of which I can seem to get rid of. I don't really want to lose the lines around my eyes, however; they come from laughter more than tears, and my forehead is free of frown-shaped furrows. Older than I was in 2005, for sure - that's plain to see. Not as old as I'll eventually be, I hope, wrinkles and all. But the tide has turned, I fear, and I only have another 50 years to go.

December 12, 2010: Pistol River, Oregon

December 12, 2011: Waikoloa, Hawai'i

Even though I'm moving from noon to sunset now, it doesn't really feel any different in my mind. My body has started reminding me more often that I'm on the limited extended warranty now instead of the one that provides a free replacement every seven years, and I need to be more vigilant about things like oil changes and tuneups and using the right sort of fuel.

Remember how long thou hast been putting off these things, and how often thou hast received an opportunity from the gods, and yet dost not use it. Thou must now at last perceive of what universe thou art a part, and of what administrator of the universe thy existence is an efflux, and that a limit of time is fixed for thee, which if thou dost not use for clearing away the clouds from thy mind, it will go and thou wilt go, and it will never return ... Though thou shouldst be going to live three thousand years, and as many times ten thousand years, still remember that no man loses any other life than this which he now lives, nor lives any other than this which he now loses. The longest and shortest are thus brought to the same. For the present is the same to all, though that which perishes is not the same; and so that which is lost appears to be a mere moment. For a man cannot lose either the past or the future: for what a man has not, how can any one take this from him? These two things then thou must bear in mind; the one, that all things from eternity are of like forms and come round in a circle, and that it makes no difference whether a man shall see the same things during a hundred years or two hundred, or an infinite time; and the second, that the longest liver and he who will die soonest lose just the same. For the present is the only thing of which a man can be deprived, if it is true that this is the only thing which he has, and that a man cannot lose a thing if he has it not.

- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations Book II (167 CE)

December 12, 2012: Tours, France

December 12, 2013: Agnos, France

The dog thought I looked pretty silly today, standing there in the spitting rain on a windswept hill in the Devon countryside and taking a selfie (Oxford dictionary's 2013 Word of the Year, but it was apparently coined in 2002 by a drunken Australian - bonzer, mate!). I didn't feel silly though; I decided a long time ago that it was silly to feel silly when doing silly things, so now I just do what I want and ignore the sidelong looks from any nearby mammals.

Come be silly with me some time.

When I was young I was called a rugged individualist.
When I was in my fifties I was considered eccentric.
Here I am doing and saying the same things I did then and I'm labeled senile.

- George Burns, from "Just You and Me Kid" (1979)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Mother Love

Think not of love as of a debt —
Due or in May or in December!
Nay, rather, for a time, forget.
Life always helps us to remember!

A child whom harmless toys beguile
To loiter for a little while,
Put heart into your play, and then,
When you are tired — come home again!

Fair, yet how fragile, pleasure's rose! —
How vain the toil to make it stronger!
It blooms — it withers, — but love knows
A sweeter blossom that lives longer!

- Florence Earle Coates, "Mother-Love" (1916)


All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy.
No man does. That is his.

- Oscar Wilde, "The Importance of Being Earnest" (1895)

Va, n’espère jamais ressembler à ces mères
Qui font verser à l’Ambigu larmes amères ;
Tu n’es pas solennelle et tu ne saurais pas
Maudire, avec un geste altier de l’avant-bras ;
Tu n’as jamais cousu, jamais soigné mon linge,
Tu t’occupes bien moins de moi que de ton singe ;
Mais, malgré tout cela, les soirs de bonne humeur,
C’est avec toi que je rirai de meilleur coeur ;
Ensemble nous courrons premières promenades,
Car je te trouve le plus chic des camarades.

Go on, you'll never be like those mothers
Who shed bitter tears for no reason;
You're not pompous and you could never cruelly
Dismiss someone with a haughty flick of the wrist;
You've never done any sewing, never done my laundry,
You take less care for me than you do for your monkey;
But for all of that, in the most enjoyable evenings,
It's with you that I laugh the hardest;
Together we'll explore new paths,
Because you're my favorite companion.

- Nina de Villard, "À Maman" (1885)

Oh ! oui, chère maman, je t’embrasse ; je t’attends, je te désire et je meurs d’impatience de te voir ici. Mon Dieu, comme tu es inquiète de moi ! Rassure-toi, chère petite maman. Je me porte à merveille. Je profite du beau temps. Je me promène, je cours, je vas, je viens, je m’amuse, je mange bien, dors mieux et pense à toi plus encore. Adieu, chère maman ; ne sois donc point inquiète. Je t’embrasse de tout mon coeur.

Ah yes, dear mother, I send you kisses; I can't wait until I see you here, and want you here now. But my goodness, how you worry about me! Be reassured, my dear little mother. I'm doing very well. I'm enjoying the good weather. I go walking, I run errands here and there, I have fun, I eat well, sleep better, and think of you most of all. Adieu, dear mother; don't worry about anything. I send hugs and kisses with all my heart.

- letter from Georges Sand to her mother, 1815


Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children.

- William Makepeace Thackeray, "Vanity Fair" (1848)

Monday, December 8, 2014

Image Imaginary Imagine

Back when I had more time, or maybe more things to say, I'd write the occasional post based on the date, just for fun. Sometimes there would be particular things that would make me look to see what else happened on that date, but other times it was more of a way of filling space, chatting with my online friends; the blogging equivalent of the daily radio show I used to have, where I could talk to people for hours on end, people I'd never even met, who lived in the small villages scattered across the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. I've gotten out of the habit, but I'd like to turn that around. I'd like to remember that writing is something I do because I enjoy it, not because someone's paying me for it. I'd like to write about what interests and entertains me, instead of spending hours researching something that doesn't.

So here we are, this sunny Monday in Devon, you and I. I've just gotten back from a two-hour walk over to Loddiswell, down muddy horse trails, across the valley, up through the fields and back again. The edge of a misty grey shower dampened the dog a little bit, but not her enthusiasm. She was less happy about the cold hose that sluiced off the half pound of mud she'd picked up along the way, when we got back to the house. Bill Bryson (who was born on December 8, 1951) did a lot of walking around England, or at least he did a lot of it just before he went back to the United States, in 1994; his adventures on foot and by bus and by rail make up the book "Notes From a Small Island." I found a copy of the book in a charity shop in London in August, and read it again with pleasure. His description of trying to understand Glaswegian (chapter 28) always makes me laugh out loud. Bryson only got as far west and south as Exeter, though. I'll be leaving from Exeter on Monday morning, heading back to London, for my last housesit in the UK, leaving the hills and moors and muddy dogs behind.

John Lennon died on December 8, 1980, one of the many people who are killed every day in the United States by guns. Too often the guns are fired by the police, these days. I try to keep up with the news, but lately I've been avoiding the headlines and watching snooker tournaments instead. Last night was the final of the UK Snooker Championship and it was fantastic. I never thought I'd be so enthralled by watching people play a variation of pool. Or billiards, as they say here. The York Barbican was packed with an enthusiastic audience, who maintained a dead silence most of the time. Only a few coughs now and again, and only when the players were trading off. I thought about the mid-movement tsunami of tussis, the hurricane of hacks, the explosion of expectoration that happens during most performances of classical music (such as Beethoven's 7th Symphony, which premiered on December 8, 1813), and wondered if snooker fans are generally healthier than your average opera-goer.

Why did I pick December 8? Sheer coincidence. I'd come across are really trippy video courtesy of The Bloggess and had marked it to include in a post some day, and then when I was taking a picture of the picture below, and looking up the artist so I could credit him or her with my publication of the photo on this blog - thereby not protecting me at all from any sort of copyright violation I'm sure, but one must go through the motions, mustn't one? - I saw that Lucien Freud was born in Berlin on December 8, 1922, and decided to expand (pad) this post with some more ramblings about other December 8-ish things.

Anyway, the trippy video is this one. Watch it, keeping your eyes right in the middle where they're spelling out words letter by letter, and then when it's done, look at something else. I looked at the postcard that's propped up on the desk where I've been working, of a 1995 Freud painting titled Benefits Supervisor Sleeping. Freud was working on this while Bryson was wandering around. Bryson was probably not wandering around naked.

What is it that we are not seeing because we are used to seeing what we are used to seeing because we cannot yet imagine what we are not seeing?

Here's another trippy thing: the salp. I'd never even heard of these before, until I happened to channel-surf through to a nature show a few weeks ago. Salps are sea squirts that live in colonies, tiny blobby creatures that form long tubes and chains and act together to travel and find food. And then I heard that not only are these trippy cool things everywhere, but they might be the key to helping to reduce algae bloom in the oceans, which might also help balance out the ocean's ecosystem after we get through screwing it up. There are so many things we still have to discover about the ocean, depths that are filled with even stranger and more marvelous creatures, science fiction making up the facts of our amazing planet.

Here on dry land, other writers navigate their self-created seas of words, weaving fact and fiction as their fancy takes them. Hungarian author Péter Kuczka died in Budapest on December 8, 1999; I'd never heard of him either, but apparently he had a great deal of influence on the Hungarian science fiction scene. I found a poem of his and ran it through Google Translate, resulting in a skewed but still understandable set of lines. But now I know how to say "bread" in Hungarian ... too bad I can't eat it.

Helló, a nevem Elizabeth, és nem tudok enni, a búza vagy a tejtermékek.

Kenyér

Anyám valahol lisztet szerzett,
kovászolt, gyúrt és szaggatott,
több legyen, - krumplit tett bele,
s hogy jobb ízű - köménymagot.

A pékhez ketten vittük el,
a négy éves öcsém meg én,
fülünket csípte a hideg.
Hó volt a házak tetején.

És hogy a kenyér meg ne fázzon,
anyám kendőjét tette rá.
A péknél meleg duruzsolt.
Apám otthon járt fel s alá.

Mikor kisült, a kenyeret
a kövér pék nem adta ki.
- Duruzsolt nála a meleg. -
Azt mondta, hogy pénz kell neki.

Mentünk haza a kenyér nélkül,
anyánk éppen padlót mosott,
a függönytelen ablakon
beragyogtak a csillagok.

Holnap elhozzuk - szólt apám.
Öcsém a fülemhez hajolt:
- Holnapra kihűl a kenyér. -
Éppen karácsony este volt.
Bread

My mother acquired somewhere flour
leavened, kneaded and choppy
be more - potatoes in it,
and that a better flavor - cumin seeds.

The baker was applied to them,
the four-year-old brother and I,
our ears stung by the cold.
Snow was on top of the houses.

And the bread that it's warmth
My mother made her shawl.
The bakery warm humming.
My father walked up and down at home.

When baked, the bread
the fat baker did not give up.
- Ding him warm. -
He said that he needs money.

We went home without the bread,
mother was washing the floor,
the irregular window curtain
the stars shone.

Pick you up tomorrow - my father said.
My brother bent my ear:
- Tomorrow, the bread has cooled. -
That was Christmas night.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Whole Night Through

It's nearly fifty times as distant, but it looked so close last night, closer than you are now, looking at the same moon - if you're up at midnight, that is, and the skies are clear in Oregon, in the Midwest, in Maine. Vous êtes beaucoup plus proche, mes amis en France, mais encore trop loin. There are some old friends to visit in the months ahead (des anciens amis, et non l'inverse, Bea, Sebastien, Florence [et peut-être Eric?]), and first cousins twice removed; new friends to make of people I've never met, in places where I've never been. It will be good to be staying with people again, for a while. I think I've been alone too long in these housesits, with only the dogs and cats to talk to. Sometimes I don't even talk to them, and when I do say something out loud, it startles me a bit. There are so many words that I need to squeeze out of my fingers each day that I forget how to make the words come out of my mouth instead.

Georgina and Chris come back in four days, and a week later I'll leave for London. It will be nice to be in the city for Christmas, and I plan on doing a little sightseeing to look at lights and decorations, and maybe go back to the British Museum to get through more of the rooms, or try to fight the lines at the Natural History museum and do more musing on the amazing fact of this existence, a tiny spark in the unimaginable span of space and time that surrounds me. It's so inspiring that we're still trying to get off this planet to explore the vastness, that machines are communicating with us from so far away I can't even wrap my head around the numbers. And it's so depressing that there are people who are being pushed off this planet daily by their fellow human beings who are acting out of fear, cruelty, ignorance, hatred, spite, and racism. I read a short story once, though I don't remember who wrote it - Harlan Ellison is the name that comes to mind, but it could have been anyone; I read a lot when I was in my teens. It was about a young man who could destroy metal just by thinking about it, I think? Or being near it, perhaps. I believe he was a soldier who decided that there should be no more killing, and he crumbles all of the weapons on the army base before telling his commanding officer that he's leaving. When the soldier walks out of the door, the officer looks in his desk drawer for his gun, but when all he sees is a pile of dust, he smashes his chair (if I remember correctly) to make a club, and chases after the soldier to kill him. I wish I could turn weapons into dust. I wish there weren't so many people who would immediately smash their chairs.

We are so small.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Who Is It That Stares Back

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.

At first the infant, mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school.

And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow.

Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation even in the cannon's mouth.

And then the justice, in fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part.
The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound.

Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

- William Shakespeare, "As You Like It" (Act II, Scene VII)

Title and soundtrack from Sting's 2013 release
"I Love Her But She Loves Someone Else"

(the title of the song itself actually has nothing to do with this post, but the melancholy sentiment fits quite well, as I shuffle about in my slippers, bemoaning the fact that while I can still line my fair round belly with good capon, there appears to be a quickly-growing list of things I need to remove from my shopping list)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Nothing Like The Sun

Rain, mist, drizzle, showers, blustery sideways squalls - you'd think I would be used to that after so many years in Oregon. And I am, truly; the overcast skies don't depress me, and since I have been inside at the computer more than not, I've only been paying attention enough to try to fit in my dog-walking and wood-gathering and duck-watering duties in the driest intervals possible. But last Sunday the clouds had blown away completely, and the midafternoon sun was headed behind the hills in a bright blue sky. I had more writing to do, but I decided it could wait, and I took Hebe down the road in the opposite direction we usually go, searching for the other end of the public footpath I'd stumbled on when exploring the lanes to the east with the dogs a few days earlier. I didn't find it.

I did find a footpath off the lanes to the west, after getting directions from a woman clopping by on a really lovely paint horse. Unfortunately, once I went through the gate into the field, it wasn't clear where I was supposed to descend towards the stream and the bridge she said was there, leading into one of the Lixton farmyards and out again to the lane back home. There were sheep in most of the lower part of the field, with an electric fence keeping them contained, and I couldn't see any real sign of people tramping through - and though there was a small gate, I wasn't entirely certain it wasn't electrified as well, as it was metal and appeared to have lines leading right up to the posts. So I followed the trampled grass and tire tracks along the hedge going back up the lane to the top of the field, traced some footprints down the far end of a field of turnips (or something similar) to a gate tied shut that didn't seem to have been opened in a long while, went back between that fence and the bottom of the turnip field, got blocked by the electric fence, and walked back up the side of the hill to end up back where I started. Good exercise, but it didn't get me any closer to the stream, and as it was getting late I just went back out into the lane and retraced my steps.

Monday was also clear and sunny, after a very frosty start to the day. I finished up a few small freelance projects in the morning, and after a quick lunch of apple slices and a banana I clipped the lead onto Hebe's collar, and we set out towards the small village of Loddiswell on the banks of the River Avon (which is not the Avon that flows through Salisbury or the one that Shakespeare lived by).

We went down the same lane where I'd found the start of the first public footpath, heading more or less to the east. The lane dips down to cross small streams - although sometimes the streams run across the lane, especially after a few weeks of rain - and climbs back up and over the rolling hills before snaking its way down their sides again. I had my sunglasses with me but after a while I just left them off, because the hedges that were generally much higher than my head blocked most of the bright sunlight.

I had looked at one of the Ordnance Survey maps at the house and drawn a little map with some landmarks, but at one point I seemed to have reached a dead end where I expected a turning. Fortunately a car arrived a minute or so after I'd stopped, and the woman gave me better directions to find the back road into Loddiswell, pointing me down a small lane that had seemed to lead into someone's yard. I stopped once more to verify directions and chat with a dairy farmer who was coming out of one of the big barns in a farm compound crossed by the lane I was following. "You're not from around here, are you?" he asked. All of the milk they produce goes to the Sainsbury's group, and a tanker truck arrives several times a week to pick it up. "How on earth do they get a tanker truck down this lane?" I asked, astonished. "Well, it is a bit tricky," he replied.
Hebe and I met one truck and had to walk backwards to the entrance to a field in order to let it pass. When we continued on, I could see the tire tracks going all the way up the edges of the banks to either side. Another six inches wider, and the truck wouldn't have been able to get through.

We braved the sidewalk-free main road for 500 metres until I arrived in the center of town. Because I had the dog with me I didn't look for the 14th-century church of St. Michael and All Angels, nor did I try to get to the South Devon Chilli Farm two kilometres to the north of town, but I did pop in to the small Spar outlet to buy a bottle of water for the hike back. And to get directions. After missing the connection in the sheep field on Sunday, I decided to stick to the paved lanes to get to Loddiswell, going east and then south. But I saw that there is a road leading to a public footpath that angles back northwest to form the hypotenuse of the upside-down right triangle whose base and long side I had just walked, and wanted to go back that way. It's usually easier to find your way out of a field into a road than the other way around, in my experience. One of the other customers in the store confirmed my map and my understanding of how to get to the start of the public footpath, and after retrieving the dog we set off back out of town and towards home.
The lane going back doesn't lead to anything but a farm halfway up the far side of the valley, and just as I reached the end of the lane, the owners drove up and turned into their driveway. They have a wonderful view across the valley to the east and south towards Bigbury-on-Sea, 7 miles away. A horse that might have belonged to that family watched me curiously as I turned right onto the unpaved path that is the combination public bridleway and footpath winding up the side of the valley to the road at the top of the ridge; the black cattle in the same field couldn't be bothered to even look over.

I was glad for the chill of the day because that was a steep climb. I was wearing a fleece top with a shirt underneath, though I'd taken off my rain jacket. Whether it was the cold day (it couldn't have been more than about 45F, especially in the shade) or the fact that I am in better shape than I think, I didn't even really break a sweat. I did stop a few times to take pictures, but in general I was the one pulling Hebe along by the lead, rather than the other way around. Poor girl - I don't think she gets a very vigorous workout too often. I was a bit worried that I was overtiring her, leading to a flareup of her arthritis, but she was bouncing around the next day without a problem. I, on the other hand, was feeling a little creaky. I am 350 in dog years, after all.
My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask'd, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.
          - William Shakespeare, Sonnet 130 (1609)

Five miles of ground I trod that afternoon, with Hebe gallantly keeping up, though she was dragging a bit towards the end. Once we got to the road it was easier, as that was flat along the ridgetop between the hedges until Greyhill Cross at the southeast corner of the roughly rectangular route around the fields behind the house that is the dogs' usual 30-minute walk. We only had to flatten ourselves against the hedges a few times to let the cars go by.

The hills on the eastern side of the valley were disappearing in the midafternoon haze, though once we got to the top of the ridge, I could see that it was still clear towards the west. We passed Greyhill Cross and went down the narrow road to Chillaton Cross, where the even narrower lane that leads to the house comes out to meet the road. Hebe and I were both glad to see the house again, and Clover was glad to have us back. I felt bad leaving her behind, but she barely makes it around the local loop of lanes on our short walks, and she probably wouldn't have made it even halfway to Loddiswell, given the steepness of the slopes we were climbing.

I wasn't really timing the walk, but I think we left around noon and arrived in Loddiswell about 1:30pm, and when I looked at the clock in the kitchen after getting the dogs sorted out and the cat fed it was 3:00pm or so. It would have been quicker to take the hypotenuse road in both directions - unless, of course, I'd gotten lost trying to find the way down the field to the start of the dead-end road. The weather is supposed to be clear to partly cloudy this week, with little or no rain. I might try the walk again on the next sunny day. Or I could try the slightly longer trip to Aveton Gifford, if I can figure out where the paths go through the fields so that I don't have to walk on the main road.

Or maybe I'll just sit at the computer and earn money. Sigh. Who invented this whole "working for a living" concept, anyway? But there really is nothing like the sun to get my creative energy going again, so no matter what, I'll make time for at least a little walk every day.