This morning was keen not to wake. Not fully. The ground was frosted and a cold fog hung beneath the still. Dawn crept quiet, a reluctant trudge from black into grey – and there to wait a while.
I climbed into the clear of Eggardon and all around me the hills and rolls stood like islands in a mist-hazed sea. Sharp in light with a chill of fingers, but all still and silent. I knew where I had to walk.
These meadows are a favourite autumn haunt, but a year ago I visited on a day similar to this and had a minor epiphany. I was nearing the thick end of The Quiet Moon, and the path that I had first trodden on a whim was finally making some sort of sense. Linking the Ancient Celts with the lunar cycle had seemed straightforward as a narrative device. As my interest in the local landscape developed beyond the fauna, through flora and into the anthropological, so the rising autumn moons seemed to glow with a deeper resonance. Sure enough, a quick scratch around the internet suggested that yes, the people who once dwelt in these hills (and first fortified Eggardon) did live in harmony to the moon’s cycle. It made sense after all, the wax and wane might not have been easily explained, but once the unerring pattern was realised then so it could be utilised. And I could structure a book as the Celts might have structured their calendar. Ideal, I thought. And I knew that our solar year was longer than 12 lunar cycles, hence the existence of a blue moon, but that could be easily negated.
But every author feels, at some point, that they had made a terrible mistake. That they’re writing a bunch of gibberish, or the words themselves simply dry up. Self-doubt and spiteful schemas are quick to undermine. And in this instance I felt I had overstretched myself. There was information out there, but it was all supposition and much of it unsourced. The Celts did not record their own history (or even exist as a ‘race’), so I was to either take the word of Roman or Grecian scribes or focus upon the one piece of archaeological history that held definite value – the Coligny Calendar. And before I give too much away about the book, I should add that having wallowed around feeling desperate for longer than was helpful, I scratched deep enough to gain a modicum of understanding. And that was proved (to myself at least) on that walk of a year since.
The Celtic month and moon that roughly corresponds with this time of year was (probably) named Dumannios, which (probably) translates along the lines of ‘time’ or ‘moon’ of smoke. I explore the notion of ‘probably’ to greater depth in the book, but the point here is that I, just as other people had, took this meaning literally. A time of smoke, of ritual burning or keeping warm. But smoke that comes from fire.
But walking as I did while engrained within the narrative process, I began to wonder if I had missed the point. Late autumn and early winter is a time of fog and mist, and days when the dank doesn’t lift. Perhaps the meaning, if it was real, was rather more metaphoric. And it might not seem like the most significant ‘eureka’ moment, but to me it was profound. I had understood enough to question it for myself, and that is a place I don’t easily find myself.
As I mentioned, the Celtic angle is just part of the narrative for The Quiet Moon. There is no fishing, but plenty of interesting encounters and honest reflection. And I think it works – certainly those people who have kindly taken a pre-published peek have reassured me to that end.