My van is a tin ovum. A chilly vacuole in the cell of the land, devoid of hot water and insulation. There's a metallic creak as I open the hatch. A rattle and a shunt. I crack my way out of the shell and into the world, wondering if I’ve made a mistake. The town house was easy after all. Buttons to push. Electricity oozing out of sockets. Machines to do my bidding.
As I tread through the grass stalks, I’m smeared in their juice. My ankle. My toe. My calf. The air is both heavy and light with Gaia’s attar. I inhale it, muscles stretching to thrust me up the slope, dew-sodden and alive.
Morning sun strikes my forehead – an angel’s hand wiping my brow? I reach the summit of my world, and see the hazels in the woods are swinging. There’s a party happening in there. Small feathered things; wrens, thrushes, robins, blackbirds, larks, all twitter and chirp with a passion I’m not sure I’ve ever known. And yet I do know it. Because as the sound waves press into my ears, I become the drum of the land, shaken awake and in time.
The thought flutters quietly into my mind and settles upon a vacant branch: Is the party for me?
What is this bewitchment of the dirt? For it must be a spell. A spirit or djinn. Suddenly I am holding what I thought I’d lost. The magic. The oneness. The precious meaning. Comfort and convenience are one thing. Life is quite another.
I climbed higher. The human world heavy with all its dissatisfaction and addiction, sank below clouds. How glad I was to see it go. Crusty old pine trunks pushed high above me, and I darted between the ancient columns, peering for clues.
Was it the high mountain air? Unpolluted. Pure. Or was it the act of walking itself — the paced exertion — which flung open the windows of my mind? Because all too soon, I was in another world; the other Earth where birds speak, crags grumble, and each rock and root holds meaning.
“Wake up!” The wind shrieked as she slapped my cheeks. And I did.
The track wound higher. Out of the woods and along the mountain back. Anyone could see it was a rite of passage. Yet daylight was on the wane, and the wind was battering my face so ferociously I winced.
Hurrying upwards, I tasted the sharp edge of time on my tongue. Evening was coming, and it was a question of trust now. The path was leading me somewhere, but did I have the faith to follow it this late in the day? Because when darkness fell, the wolves would emerge, and the way would be devoured.
Through bog and gorse, the ground oozed. Sunset’s fingertips dragged along the distant peaks as day’s end yanked her westward. I scrabbled upwards. Onwards. Throughwards.
And then I saw them. The wild horses. Their manes whipped in the wind as they chomped. The four of them held the top of the mountain, as sturdy and sure as gods. A pregnant mare raised her head, mammalian eyes reflecting emotions I knew so well. Here on the other planet Earth, the primordial one we evolved from, you know when you meet an animal guide. You just know.
I sat near the horses while they told me their tales of plodding freedom. And in return I told them mine. We all agreed, there was a meaning to our meeting. A vitality.
“Leave now, or join us forever,” the mare murmured as the gloaming blurred the landscape.
Night’s breath was on my back as I ran. He almost grazed me, though not quite. I reached the car. As I closed the door, magic pushing out of my cheeks and eyes, I saw the grids of the streetlights flicking on down below. They tamed the villages and caged the towns. In dull domesticity.
I left the path. Something drew me aside. Was it the voices of the Celts rising from the boggy ground? Or the battering breath of the wind dragon flapping across the Asturian sky? No matter. I was drawn. By the landscape herself. And I followed her crooked finger. Upward and into the bosk.
One is never disappointed when one heeds the call. For treasure is aplenty, stowed within the contours of the Earth’s body. Under stone. Behind tree. Clattering between the banks of a brook. Perhaps it’s the treasure itself that beckons. Perhaps the gold seeps into the soil weaving glistening trails only instinct can see.
Cold gusts bit into my cheeks. I stopped. Pushing back my hat, I saw clearly. It was an altar. Not that there was a sign. But the presence of the rock, the shimmer of emerald, and the whispers from the pine grove surrounding were explicit.
Few are those who recognise Spain’s Celtic side. Her cooler northern side. Yet Celtic she is. And as I knelt, placing my hands on the rock’s long-chilled hide, something of substance was released.
The word Rune is derived from the root - run or runa meaning whisper or secret. In linguistic terms, runes are the symbolic letters of ancient Germanic alphabets, or even short Norse poems. Runes can be stones inscribed with magical symbols or 'spells too. Welcome to my runes. Are they symbols? Are they poems? Or are they spells? I'll leave it up to you.
Atulya K Bingham is an author, natural builder and lone off-gridder now lost in the hills of northern Spain.
"I consider myself a person who is connected to nature, somebody who respects the earth; this book has me walking through the world with all my senses opened." Emma Blas, editor Her Heart Poetry