David Abbott

Turned around

Carrying the grumbling ghosts of my selves I walk out onto familiar fields made unfamiliar by a heavy goulash of morning mist. Within minutes my beard is wet, then frozen. Same with the dog’s ears. This veil of other-world fiddles both time and space. It turns me around just enough that I come across familiar landmarks faster than expected and set off in just slightly the wrong direction for the opening to the woods. Grumble grumble.

How often I take my grumbles for a walk, and how often they’re bedded down by a good airing. The dog photobombs every shot I line up. Down by the reeds I bump into a woman whose two puppies look like they’re eating each others faces off. “They used to draw blood when they were younger” she offers, sucking a rollie and blowing smoke into the mist. “I could watch dogs play all day,” I laugh, but we leave shortly after and head into the woods. We meet a couple who have lived in the same house for 47 years. “Now it’s all bloody students” they complain. Their bull terrier pushes itself into my shins as I stroke her. She would take all the stroking I have to give but my dog is doing a kind of sideways whirligig into her line of sight to tempt her into a chase and she falls for it. I straighten up. “She’s lovely” I say as both the dogs plop into a water-filled ditch. “Oh for god’s sake” says the man. She is lovely. All dogs are.

It’s a couple degrees warmer in the woods so there’s no mist, no frost. My beard defrosts and drips onto my coat. When I push the gate open and re-enter the colder field it refreezes. The woods, paths, poo bins and solitary trees reveal themselves just as the mist tricks me into believing that maybe they’ve gone for good. A good mist is like a good snow. It shifts reality sideways just enough to instill some kind of funny optimism in me, like an unexpected New Year’s day with accompanying optimistic resolutions. But it’s not New Year’s, it’s just a regular day marked by a slightly different weather phenomenon. But still, optimism. At home I untangle the dog from inside her fleece and sit down for a coffee to look over my photos. My wife and I talk over the table, and I find myself finally ungrumbled.

December 2, 2023