Episode 1 - Serialisation of Waiting for a Hunter's Moon by Simon Smith (with permission)
We have arrived. Or at least, we feel we have arrived.
For twelve months we have seemed to plough our way toward this space in the calendar and yet, when we find ourselves at that point upon which we have focused for so long, we are left standing as émigrés on a far shore, our heads abundant with thoughts and dreams and our pockets turned out and empty.
Once again, the clock has zeroed and we have no time under our belts at all, only twelve more empty months to fill, or a twelvemonth as my grandfather used to call it, lending an antique substance to the intangible, a satisfying quantity and gravitas that allows it to be rightfully measured alongside a fathom or a hundredweight.
So, rather than an arrival, we have perhaps come to something we would be better to describe as a ‘negotiated newness’, a time of great loss but, perhaps, of even greater truth. The “clammy cells” of autumn have long since been ransacked and now lie stripped and left exposed to the elements. Whatever remains is now up for grabs as this new year has yet to begin pencilling in its first outlines, meaning that anyone can come and begin to give, or take, whatever definition they desire.
Everything has a sharpness, a no-frills air of frugality about it. Pavements bleached pale by road salt are left with the quality of the very cheapest cuts of meat – sparse, a utilitarian white flash of bone showing through the thin flesh. Even the air carries a razored quality, like a favourite knife stropped and re-stropped to a wafer-thin tolerance that threatens to snap with every lancing cut it makes through my clothing.
Everywhere, the landscape is brittle, cowering into its own fragility. Freezing air flares across exposed skin, burning fast and deep, and everywhere I step the chiming grass stems and iced sand craze into craquelure patterns underfoot. Already, the verges of the world are strewn with hours that have seized up, refused to budge, and now lie knackered and abandoned in their own chilly indifference.
Just this afternoon the walk home from work brought me past the river where it sat in a schizophrenic limbo. The trickle of water slid up against the shallow, weeded, ice-bound margins that had just started to steam in the feeble remnants of the limp afternoon sunlight; all three stages of water lay alongside each other to tell the story of an element that was unsure in which state it wished to exist.
But now evening comes on.
Even as it begins to fail in this final pre-dark period, the light dangles lifelessly, a blanket made up of more holes than fabric, slightly shading the town but not yet enough to bring about total darkness, letting in a chill at the neck or the feet at the first available opportunity. Even the glow of the first stars seems cold and unmoving, having lost any warmth on its journey of decades, centuries, millennia, to reach here, an obsolete image from something long dead. Not many would venture out on such an evening.
But for all its early brittleness this is definitely a beginning, even though it may not at first be evident. The world’s eternal turning has swung into motion once again.
And now they come as if by instinct, following their sidereal circuits that have always led them here, to these places at these times, sensing perhaps that hard ground does not mean lifeless ground. Where many see emptiness, they look deeper, seeing a wide world uncluttered; a sea or river that seems to have been erased, replaced by the shine of stars and a rind of moonlight left to wither on a surface uncreased by swell or wind or wave, doubling the open spaces so that everything bumbles through it and into it like a lost echo. The stilled machinery of frozen water still harbours a faint memory of movement.
And so they continue, these resurrection men and women; plumbing the quiet depths with their floats, setting their rod tips into the wind and current, they strain, watch, wait to adjust to the gentle turn of the year’s first tide, the slow, shy flow of the stream.
They tilt their heads back once more to take in the stars, or what, at least, appear to be the stars, their light still burning in defiance against a death long since past.
In the silence the float dibs; the rod tip trembles; the heart quickens.
There is life yet.