I wished I’d taken a picture. I think I did, but it would be lost on film somewhere, perhaps in a forgotten box in an attic. It was one of those memorable landscapes that made you go ‘wow’. A dreary autumn morning, the leaves dimly orange and yellow, and looking out of the front window of the holiday cottage, the mist had risen up from the river filling the valley.
The Wye valley forms the border between South Wales and western England. The river Wye snakes its way through hills and small forests, before draining into the Bristol Channel. It’s a popular destination for visitors because it boasts wonderful views, historic towns and for me, castles: Chepstow, Monmouth and Goodrich, and of these, it was Goodrich, which is perched on the English side, that provided the view while my family and I holidayed on the Welsh side, directly opposite.
The fog had blanketed the valley and the mist rose up smothering the hillsides and trees so that only the ruins of the castle peeked out. The magical carpet of greyness was an illusion, but it seemed as if you could step out and walk right across to the other side.
Hunting around, I found a picture very similar to my recollection of the view. I’ve put it up, and I hope the photographer doesn’t mind, but it is uncannily like what I remember.
Perhaps childhood keeps those special moments and magnifies them into something grander, possibly even fantastical, but I’m sure that Goodrich was born out of that mist that day.
Mist has become something of a feature in my current work in progress, a contemporary mystery:
“The mist…” I’d seen the way it had behaved, coiling its antennas about my legs, then chasing me out of the woods. How to explain that to him?
“It felt alive.”
“Feeling alive and being alive are different things.” He reached out to a nearby tree and spread his fingers over the bark. “Does a tree feel this, my touch?”
I snorted. “Of course not. It doesn’t have a nervous system or brain.”
“Yet, it is alive.” He let his hand drop to his side.
“Until you chop it down.”
“Would it know—the sap, the bark, and the leaves—would they know they’d been cut off from the roots that sustain them? They have no feelings.”
I hugged my arms, and the branches above us groaned, bending low as if to listen. His explanation re-enforced my apparent weakness: yet again, I had dipped into the art of personification and perhaps it was an artist’s natural trait, to give life to objects in the same way I would to a human being. “I imagined the mist is alive, nothing else. But, there are no unnatural happenings here in this wood. Is that what you’re saying?”
“I’m saying you have the ability to imagine it is alive. The mist never knows if it is or isn’t.”