It took time after moving here to get used to the focal point of Freezing Hill. Scoring one of the few horizontals in a landscape that dips and sweeps and undulates, our horizon to the west is drawn more keenly for the line of trees that teeter on the ridge. A dark score mark perched between land and sky, they focus the eye and draw you back.
We gaze upon them daily, several times a day, and always last thing before closing the house for the night. However, to start with I found the horizontal difficult, until it was grounded by the addition of the new footprint around the house. Our own landform of flatness, even the little we have, helps to make sense of it and the granite troughs echo the line and frame the land between and the sky above and beyond.
Last winter, the sixth we had been here, for the first time we walked the fields between us and there to bring our focal point into a new perspective. It was Christmas Day and, as we scaled the hill, the beeches reared up like giants above us. The air was still on the leeward slopes that protected us from the westerlies, but the roar of the wind coming from the valley beyond was in their branches. It was deafening where we stood in the beech mast at their feet and saw for the first time that they were pitched along the top of an earthwork* running along the ridge and now held in place by the clutch of their roots.
Over the year, drawn back to the shifting scene that they give focus to, we witness change. The transparency in their branches in the winter. A sometimes-near sometimes-farness, depending on the moisture in the air. The sweep of emerald field in spring. The piping line of ochre hay as the harvest is cut and then dried and bailed, the lines appearing and vanishing over the course of 48 hours in August. The line at its strongest on the chill, white days of frost and snow, when the trees and hedges score charcoal marks on the landscape. We see the sky differently for the anchor the trees provide between land and cloudscape over the course of the year. They act as a guide to the position of the setting sun, which dips far to their right in June and then, in a quickening progression as the summer slips, to their left and then so much further that you find it hard to imagine that it ever set behind them.