The path along the crookedshore is my most familiar way, but even here the darkness presents a peculiar challenge. Tonight, the first evening in October, the rain is hammering down, and the wind roars in my ears but Tobey and I are out here, on the walk we do more commonly in the light.
Back home, the fire is burning and the hearth radiates its heat. Homeworks are done, mostly, and CJ is curled on the chair with a book, while P is on an IM service with friends in whose physical company she was just a matter of hours ago. Tobey has lately been stretched asleep in his usual spot by the fireside, like some great brown bear grateful for his good fortune until, that is, I creep down quietly from the bedroom and lift my coat from under the stairs. Then he is instantly awake, nudging my right leg in anticipation of a walk, utterly uncaring about conditions outside. I grab a warm hat, for the first time this autumn, slip his lead into a pocket and head out without any particular plan.
In the dark senses are heightened. I hear a sorrowful cry of lament from some nighttime bird which touches some deep place within me, some well of sadness, and I too lament the passing of another season. It seems that the dog is less sure in the darkness. He barely strays more than 5 metres in front or behind me.
I join the bright dots of light overhead to form a plane on a flight path to Aldergrove. Donaghadee lighthouse sweeps the sky like a giant windscreen wiper struggling against the rain. Then, about half way round, we encounter a man on the narrow path, in a red coat with two shining golden retrievers and we stop. Unable to make out our features we exchange what passes for conversation among two Irish male strangers. ‘It’s wet’ he says, in typical understatement. ‘Aye’, says I, ‘and are we the only two mad ones who are out?’ I ask. ‘Think so,’ says he. But I wonder. It’s raining and windy, but I’m wrapped up and feeling just great, is it really crazy?