Wind and cold, the yellow leaves flying off the willow trees at the same angle and velocity as the snowflakes.
Looking across the paddock its hard to define what the sky or trees release. The Hawkduns and Mt Ida are blanked out, Blackstone Hill hidden, and on Rough Ridge snow cloud is whitening the peaks and tors.
I climb up into the mezzanine, where after seven years, the apex of the walls above the strawbales has still not been finished. To stem the cold air, I push blankets into the gap, a cot mattress, my father’s jacket. “I pull the rope of my door tighter,” wrote Lu Yün in the fourth century AD, “And stuff my windows with roots and ferns”. For the last seven winters I’ve flown to America and summer to teach. Not this winter.
After lockdown ends, and before we reach temperatures of minus 15 perhaps, I’m going to finish that apex.
The next day, a trip to hospital. The road for two hours is a blessing of open and empty highway, mist on the top of the Pigroot, tussocks flicking, poplars in spires of gold. The hospital entrance is a dystopian adventure – with security, cordoned channel, a barricade you can’t go past unless your name is on a list.
Two people max to a lift, one at the front, one at the back. “My covid test is negative,” I tell the orderly with the trolley between us. “That’s good to know,” she smiles.
After an xray, I’m told its best not to go home unless my tooth is taken out. “Or you’ll be coming back in a helicopter,” the dentist says. I can only see her eyes through gown and mask and googles and face shield. The assistant is similarly dressed. “We were brought in before lockdown and asked for volunteers to keep working,” she tells me. “There are 50 of us. Only six volunteered.”
They work together like friends, as if they have danced this dance many times together. I am grateful for their artistry and skill. For being there. For the masked man who came down the dental school stairs to let me in, and then out. Their deeds will not be frescoed on walls, but glow in a world that needs their brightness.