It is a wonderful thing to feel a connection to the land; to feel a sense of belonging, of being ‘home’. There is a small rocky outcrop on Dartmoor which I have called mine. It is my thinking spot, a decision space. A high place. If you look behind you, you can see the River Tamar, if you look in front of you, you just see the folds and tors of the moorland, dramatic skies and a wide openness of land populated only by Dartmoor ponies, sheep, buzzards, snipe in the winter or wheatear in the summer. A wild place. A destination.
You reach it by walking along a lane which takes you up and away from the village, through a gate, past some ancient stone circles, past a reservoir, over an old quarry track and then through some marsh. From here the land is covered in natural scree and rock fall up which you clamber. Then you come to the tor and hitch yourself upwards to the highest rocks. Then you stop and sit and wonder.
These rocks have comforted me in times of sadness and loss, supported the weight of my decision-making and entertained me when life is brimming with goodness. No matter what, these rocks are always the same. The same little space to sit, the same gaps that remain just leapable, the same nooks and crannies in which to shelter.
Here, me and them are timeless. I can go the other side of the world, move jobs, move houses, bring children up, study, sing, love, dance and cry, and these rocks stand fast. They are dependable, always here, always the same, always ready to welcome me and hear my stories.
Land ownership is a strange human preoccupation given that the land always outlives us. Australian aborigines have a different perspective. They believe the land owns them; that the land is the Mother who brings them up. They feel a deep connection with all that exists there; that wildlife is their brother or sister. Of course colonialisation and ‘grog’ are instrumental in aboriginal demise but perhaps we should listen a bit more to ancient ways. We may be custodians of nature but in the end the earth has borne us and we will bear the costs of our utter disrespect for it. This is what my rock whispers to me when I sit and look out to all that nature is.