As I sit high on a cliff face, gently sweating from the humidity of a mid-July afternoon I am surrounded by life. The circumferential soundscapes of Northumbria‘s Markland fuse with the natural sound of my environment. Birds chirp and caw, leaves rustle, animals scurry unseen. Gentle waves lap upon the shore giving the forest a heartbeat, a rhythm. Low bass thrums ominously as the vastness of it all opens up before me.
With eyes closed and senses open, wolves howl in the distance – a threat too far for worry.
Darkness falls and a fog rolling off the cold sea drifts among the trees tall and proud, strong with the wisdom of centuries. Thunder cracks, loud and sharp. It’s felt in the bones and in the heart. Soon the dread of a long, sleepless night takes hold. Despite this, exhaustion triumphs.
It’s damp and the earth smells of rot. The forest is thick and ancient. For time untold secrets lie within. Violent, bloody secrets. But to discover those secrets one must forget fear.
As dew evaporates from the leaves as the sun rises higher so does the fear, to be replaced with awe, wonder and an almost arcane beauty. Life growing from life growing from old lives. Moss clings to rock in the harsh Canadian Shield. Acorns lie in wait among the detritus, patiently waiting to take hold. Ferns spring forth providing shade, shelter and scaffolding. A breeze shakes the sprouts reaching for the warmth of the Sun. A simple beauty yet overwhelming.
Like a weight being lifted from burdened shoulders a clearing appears, wondrous. Blue sky opens above bringing light and warmth. The Sun’s rays rejuvenate both body and mind.
Fire burns across the sky, blood red, looking into you as night descends and the winds begin to blow, bitter and biting. It sucks the air from your lungs and brings new hardships on its own breath.
Barren and harsh, rocks lay bare, fighting elements massed against them. Patient for annihilation over millenia. Steadfast against the wind and waves, the sentinels remain. Daybreak does not always bring peace. When the life-giving eye that looks down upon this land rises with scorn and menace there will be no solace. New threats known and unknown arise with time. Untamed wilderness carries ominous dread. Shadows and sound create paranoia. Fear emanates from pores, drifting away on sweat, pulling the forest tighter.
The joy of discovery once again fills my heart. The interconnectedness of nature explodes across my senses as I drink in the nuance between plant and insect, the sky and earth, the old and the new, the cyclical nature of life and death. The immeasurable expanse of time. A spider ascends a strand above my head, undeterred by my presence and it is beautiful.
Yet a part of me will always yearn for home despite the wonders at hand. I have explored so long and so deeply that the possibility of return seems indeterminable. With the stars as my guide I will see home again, above or below the ground. In this form, the next, or something in-between. Wherever I go, wherever I end, I will leave my mark upon this land. The forest may not change but it will never be the same as it was before I first gazed upon its immensity, its majesty, its energy. Its whole.
This review was written sitting on a large rock outcropping high above the undergrowth. I let the guitar and bass tones wash through my body and drive my pen. Sometimes it chose the first person, sometimes not. Sometimes I’m writing about myself and sometimes as an unknown explorer surviving in the strange new wilderness. Just as Jim Field and Dorian Williamson improvise on the fly for their compositions, I used that as inspiration for this review. Northumbria is not suited for traditional reviews in my opinion so I don’t write them traditionally. My series of poems inspired by their Bring Down the Sky release is another example of this. I can’t wait to see what they in store to complete the trilogy started with Helluland and continued here with Markland.
Markland on Bandcamp: cryochamber.bandcamp.com/album/markland
Northumbria on Facebook: facebook.com/pages/Northumbria