Today, I am witness to that strange combination of light and darkness you sometimes get in the mountains. Moody storm clouds sweep over the summits but a fiery sun finds its way through, making the space around the tops feel otherworldly. Ill Bell has been hidden by cloud the entire day. It’s my first day back in my parent’s house after having lived in Denmark for 4 months. The sky when I woke up this morning was complex, inviting examination; three clearly defined bands of cloud combined with low, early morning winter-sun made a patchwork, intricate and dramatic. Now, the sky nearest my window is blue, but the clouds still hang low over the mountains. The sun is shining warmly on two green hills in the foreground: The Dodds. A wall crests each of their summits, with a lone tree on the tallest of the two, stark against the horizon and proud in its isolation. On the other side of the valley are higher hills— Potter Fell and company—craggy, and red with autumnal vegetation, brown, grey, and pink. Potter Fell and The Dodds make a v-shape between them, slanting across each other and framing the fells over which the cloud still sits, and of which Ill Bell is the chief. From my perspective it forms a head; held aloft by two shoulders of fell, it sits back, distant and knowing. Ill Bell and its neighbours are blanketed by snow, the details of their crags black and visible from afar, the afternoon sun highlighting their features.
The light at the head of the valley still looks stormy and the cloud has only just cleared from the summits. Before, it was all swirling mists and split-second revelations, the fell living up to its name—“ill” from Old Norse illr, meaning evil. Now, with its snowy cap it is made beacon by the sun. If not entirely benign, it is at least peaceful, content to form the centrepiece of a landscape of colour: vivid green, russet brown, pinky red, and bright snow-white. It is my first day back and I am tired from work and travelling, but the fells are inviting, their covering of snow a homecoming treat. I would like that they say “welcome back”, and though they remain impassive, stoic, and silent, their presence is a welcome to me.
Copyright © Jack Threlfall Hartley 2017