It’s cold in the hour before dawn. Morning mist is rising from the Brooks and it looks like a fine day might be coming. But not yet. For the moment there are still a few stars in the shadows of the sky. Grace and I are off to see the sunrise on the Weald, heading for the field above the deer park where the Greensand Way runs south and east and the vale of Kent spreads out beneath.
Along Salts Lane, we catch a savoury whiff of wild garlic. She lifts her nose to sniff the air. Breakfast is a long way off for both of us. We leave the road behind and start along the path that winds upwards through the woods along the stream. A gleam of light is growing in the sky but here, amongst the trees, darkness still lies along the well worn track and I tread carefully, struggling to manage torch and lead and stick. Juggling is a trick I’ve yet to master.
The path levels, we walk a little faster so as not to miss the sunrise. The birds are in full cry, a cockerel in the distance sounds reveillé. The pre dawn light’s already in the sky. In half an hour the sun will raise her head above the eastern hills and we have two more miles to cover in that space of time. We gather pace along the damson path, me stepping out, Gracie in an easy trot, excited as we pick up speed.
Hasten along Haste Hill, chase the dawn down Church Street, past the school and the gypsy caravans. Grace bristles at the barking of the tethered dogs, marking her scent on the campsite gates. Her season ended a few days ago so amorous entreaties come too late. She, after a month of walking on the lead, has no desire to find a mate, just to be free, to run, to stretch her long legs out and race towards the sun.
Before we reach the church we turn to take the Greensand Way. Day is just about to break, white clouds over Egerton and Ulcombe to the east are uplit by the growing light. Southwards Staplehurst and Headcorn are laid beneath the gleaming shroud of mist that stretches past the edges of the earth. The grass before us glistens under dew.
Bribed by a biscuit she sits while I unclip the lead and let her slip.
“Off you go.”
Four weeks, constrained, curtailed and now, set free upon this morning field she hesitates.
“Good girl, go on.”
She looks to me, a cautious step or two.
“Go on, shoo.”
I laugh, I make as if to chase her, see the tautening of her thighs, see her feint a lunge towards me, drop low to the ground, turn and launch herself into a run. She’s gone.
Far across the field she’s racing through the silver grass, sweeping her graceful swathe across the open ground, twisting around and tumbling like a harlequin buffoon, running with a lunatic joy that I can not escape. The laughter’s welling up inside me, bursting aloud into the chilly air, steaming on my breath and running in tears across my cheeks.
She’s running into the sunrise, running and my heart is running with her, running until my heart is fit to burst.
John has spent forty years sitting behind a desk tapping at the keys of a computer for ten hours a day and writing about Investment Banking. Freed from the yoke of the capitalist oppressor he now sits behind a desk for five hours a day and writes about whatever he likes. Then he goes and walks the dog.