At Heavenfield it’s hard to tell if it’s you that’s
high or the sky that’s low. As soon as you step off the Military
Road and walk through the gate next to the sturdy wooden cross,
you’re in meadow – buttercups, grasses, dock –and
the clouds roll over your head east towards the city and the sea.
The old stone wall round the churchyard borders sycamore trees
and nettles, lush and rampant green above and below. A blue swing
sways in the breeze: you watch it and the way your thoughts weave
in and out of everything that’s there and everything that
isn’t; the sounds of birds and sheep and cars in the distance.
You can smell animal and earth, a hint of autumn in the air - ripeness.
In the graveyard you can sit on a seat of wood and stone and see
the whole of the North unfold in front of you, the blaze of the
Cheviot on the horizon. A metal plaque tells you it’s dedicated
to one Alexander Mason, born at Heavenfield on 2nd June 1906 and
died a couple of miles along the Wall at High Brunton on 6th February
1997. That seems to suit this place, so deeply rooted in time and
continuity, where what is important can bear fruit.
Rain will thread you into the church, the small fusty vestry, cluttered
with heaters and hymn numbers, boards telling you the story of King
Oswald and how a heavenly light appeared all night over his bones
and invested them with the power to deliver souls possessed with
devils. And so your thoughts find new hooks to hang themselves on,
a different quality of light to see by. Working with renga, it occurs
to you, it’s not by hand you write but by breath, coming and
going, open as the sky over Heavenfield.