The Roman Steps

an hour passes,
I am still, somehow, in the house.

So finally, bypassing the brain, I throw on boots and a scarf, shove a notebook, scissors and paper bags in a cloth tote, and shove myself out the front door.

The air is mellow and crisp at the same time. It moves on my skin, in my nostrils, my mouth. The low sunlight is golden and bright, every house, car, bicycle, ball on the street, the trees and the hillsides and the horizon, everything is warmed and glowing.

Up the Roman Steps, up and up. This, my favourite walk, takes in all our most beloved trees. Past beech, oak, ash, hazel I go, then up and up past bright, smooth holly and twisted, ivy-heavy hawthorn, a copse of spindly, waving silver birch, up and up til the path opens onto hillside where gorse and brambles battle for the crown. Or the view, upstream, back over the little town and the mountains beyond.

At the halfway bench I pause and look out across the Aberystwyth road, downstream the Dyfi widens and snakes between the hillsides, river becoming estuary, the sea not far beyond. The hillsides opposite are covered with oak and birch and pine and dazzling, flaming larch. Snowdonia’s first peaks raise their heads beyond, deep greens and browns faded by distance.

Up again, more beech, more hawthorn, more oak, shorter here and more windswept, hardy, fighting young trees, the path winds up and up and on to the Wylfa.

It is Machynlleth’s best-kept secret that you can watch the sunset over the sea from here. From the top of this unassuming mound half a mile from the town, you can watch the Dyfi vanish behind undulating hillsides, then seven miles beyond, the waters of the Cardigan bay glimmer, held by the shallow cup of the horizon. On this late autumn day, striding through the yellow-white grasses of the hilltop, I find the spot. The sun is poised to drop into the waiting vessel of the sea.

I’m too early for sunset, but the moment is perfect. Silence, aside from the odd Sunday evening car on the Aber road, and the sound of the chill breeze in my ears. A silent red kite soars in the distance, a flock of seagulls drift by overhead. Ans those tiny brown birds – the ones you always find on windswept moorlands – peep and cheep to each other from the grassy tussocks.

I close my eyes and take in the stillness.
Everything is so still
and everything is in flux.

In every moment, this silence, this stillness, and in every moment, eternal, incessant, cyclical movement.

I am made of this same earth and sunlight and moss and sea.