tkitching (tkitching) wrote,

Tre'r Cieri

A hill amongst hills, papered in the sad faded purples and muddy reds of the December heathers. The well used path leads up past the point where the enclosures stop and land is still liberated and unconstrained. We flump down in the taggles of growth for a breather. A dunnock calls to us, fat bodied, plump for winter, before flopping over the near brow in a tangle of lazy wings. We're old fashioned working class ramblers, plastic supermarket bag with packed lunch, jeans, woolly jumpers. The last section breaks down to loose scree, funnelling us through the ramparts and in.

Tre'r Cieri is a remarkable place by any definition. A four metre defensive wall surrounds over 150 stone huts, roofless but otherwise intact. The grey walls rise out of the scree, a secret glorious crown invisible from below. Built around 200 BC, the place peaked during the Roman period, perhaps coinciding with the Roman massacres of the last druids on Anglesey. This place was home to hundreds of people for a period of nearly 600 years. And then they went.

Now we're here and we have it utterly to ourselves. Rings of huts are arranged around courtyards. We stand in these ancient houses and silently imagine. It's hard to bridge the gap. We make a picnic spot on the wall, where our panorama takes in the Llyn peninsula through to Anglesey.

The peninsula stretches West on our left. Lumps of hill grow rounded and fat from the land, field boundaries a chequered cloth round their waists, bald monks' heads of fading heather and rock. Here on the final fringes of Wales, the rocks are close to the sky. Clouds fracture and cold white winter sun splinters on rounded hills and wet spots reflect brighter, glaring out bits of land. It's a mosaic of avocado coloured fields, overexposure, and the mauve where the tops melt into backlit clouds.

Across is another peak, a soft bottomed valley away, slatey slabs of grey hair tumbling down damp cheeks. On our right, and North, Anglesey, the last untamed daughter of Wales, is dark and shadowed, looking away from us now, across to Ireland, blue mesh sea ever her defence.

I've always loved this Wales. This edgeland. From Slate tip to damp gasfired bookshop. Accent to brown dragonflied river, under her other yellow sun. A countryside that aches with age and stories we cannot follow. The knowledge of forgotten times in a physical language I will never truly understand. A broken pockmarked landscape with so many collapsed ways in. Slate and lead brought forth by crooked ghosts forgotten, in valleys left for the red kites to watch. Each scarred mountain owns a personal sorrow from the past. It is clouds above, and the waters of mining man's Wales, freely spilling down the steep sides in opaque peaty drops.

And now we're rewarded for our care. The cold air has stopped above us and settled. As eider come to rest, so the air is soft and still, a blanket of perfect silence. I am a city man, and suddenly I'm uneasy at the missing details, the water in the pipes beneath the plaster, the endless song of wires carrying charge in the wall. It is so still. But it is not oppressive. It is like a breath taken, then gently held. The hill is waiting, and maybe has been for centuries.

My friend and I share a glance. The silence is complete. The sounds of our breathing, our heartbeats, disappear into the infinite softness of the satiated air and leave us physically mute where sound once was. I'm afraid to whisper. I've never felt air so still and so full.

Silence is pictures needle sharp and detailed. A wren stands below the wall we're sat on. A brown golf ball of interest and alertness, she jumps from rock to rock. Then the ravens start. From deep in the void of time behind us, a raven is overhead and coming across. The silence is so complete that the details of the moment are exquisite and brilliant, in crushingly keen focus. The wings of the raven are slicing the air with their many distinct tips. Strong steady beats produce harmonics of cut sound, clashing, mixing, and making landfall only on our ears. It's a sound we've never heard before and never will again. We can hear each individual feather brushing against the infinite pool of water, the only ripples in our ocean.

It's a moment of total clarity. There is not a single distraction from this delicate theatre. Behind us are 400 ghosts, satisfied, watching.

A bird flies from infinite darkness, through the window at one end of a feasting hall. It flies rapidly above song, dance, drinking and food, before flying so soon out of the other window and back forever to the infinite blackness. So went the Anglo Saxon metaphor for our brief lives. Now we've been allowed this extraordinary privilege of seeing the the bird in the infinite quietness, in a space so plainly naked of any element of time.

We begin the trip back down the hill, and Wales is kind enough to return us to our own space and time, slowly bringing back the sounds of the road and the houses, the familiarity of our own tiny box of light and song. We are alive as never before.

There's a fresh bird shit on my windscreen.
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