What do I see when I look at trees?
The walk is to the mill pond, dropping down the steep bank from the canal. It’s not an easy spot to get to when you have such little sight, but it’s worth it just for the sense of achievement. It has taken me many years to perfect the sideways scramble down a steep bank I can’t actually see.
If you are worried, find some different trees to watch. There are many others to choose from, including some that are very accessible.#
When I get to the bottom of the scramble, I am among beech trees. This is near the northern limit of their range, so their thick cathedral pillars are unusual. It is worth touching their buttresses to feel the smooth, grey bark, get a sense of their enormity, and feel the beech mast crunch under your feet.
I sit on the ground here, and drag my fingers through the litter of leaves and empty nuts.
Ahead of me is the mill pond, and, on the other side, the wood comes down to the reeds, where the herons stand in long, malevolent stillness.
I sit and I look. Ruby the dog sits and looks too. She seems to really enjoy these quiet times. It is a silent three-way communion of sorts, between me, Ruby and the trees.
I relax, and watch the scene resolve itself into four bands of colour. The water always seems to be dark. Sometimes, after heavy rain up on the moors, the water is brown with the peat washed down from the hill. Above the water, there is a narrow band of straw, which could be a beach but which I know is the reeds where the heron lurks, waiting for trout.
Above that is a pale brown, streaked with the papery silver of birch trunks. This is the east slope of the wood, pale in a morning sun, but sometimes dynamic with wind or rain, or tinged with the electric blue of bluebells in May.
Above that is the sky, sometimes blue, sometimes grey, always changing.
I sit here as long as I can. Just staring brings its own peace. And I don’t take a phone, or even a watch.