It felt like the first day of spring. For the first time in months I was wearing a layer of fleece more than strictly necessary. Brightly lit hills rolled away into mist nearly luminous in the sun. Surprisingly, other than a few riders catching up with the Old Berks Hunt and a couple of farmers busy tilling and fertilising, the hills were unpeopled. Sheep stared and Red Kites wheeled, and that was all for mile after mile. That, and lovely views all around.
The space and quiet are precious. Space to ride for hours. Quiet for thinking. Hills for dreaming. What is behind the next hills? What view will the summit reveal? What is hidden in that wood down in the valley? I imagine miles of trail, green pastures, a cozy cottage, friends, stories and song. Beauty and simplicity. Good things. Places to linger, and people I want to spend time with.
There is a peculiar spareness to the hill country. Just too green to be called bleak, this is an arid swathe nonetheless. Not exactly austere, for that implies dreariness, the hills are simple and unadorned. Travelling here takes me back to my first journey to the dry hills flowing out from the lofty Carpathian range to melt amidst the great steppe. Two in-between places, passed over, forgotten. Two places where, long ago, history was changed.
I search for meaning as I travel. But until recently I could not readily say why I found these places beautiful. Is it cultural? I wasn't brought up to hike or bicycle, let alone ride. My parents were not outdoor people. On reflection the hills were places of escape, real and imagined. They beckoned from beyond dull suburbia, as they still do. The hills are a metaphor for liberty. They give me a little freedom too. And they allow me to dream in a way no town or city could. On every journey I imagine what might lie around the next corner, and what that might mean.
We travelled for three hours, Brena and me. I found beauty. Brena found grass. Each of us was satisfied.