Some key people in my life here in Wales live in towns along one road that leads from Aberystwyth to Machynlleth. So I’ve gotten to know the road–the A487. I hadn’t been out of this small university town by the sea for the first three months of my stay. Then my very kind landlady, who has since become my friend, took me on a drive to the next town up the coast, Borth, and then inland, winding up onto the A487, and back to Aber. It was great to see the sheep farms and a world that, well, kind of looks a lot like Vermont. Vermont with 700 year old buildings!
That first drive was a blur of images and information. I didn’t really understand where we’d gone: Furnace, Tre’r’ddol, Taylbont, Bow Street and back to Aber. But I am now learning to locate myself in space.
The space of Wales. It often feels like outer space with light pouring over us suddenly out of nowhere, the heavy grey clouds and melancholic drizzly days bursting into golden flames and soft sunsets over the sea. It really is magic.
Lately these drives have happened on Sundays. Last weekend, just a few miles out of Aber, I got to ride through what felt like incredible wilderness: Gorse (yellow-flowered, spiky bushes in the pea family), heather (ground shrub that will flower purple in the late spring), winberry (a cousin of the blueberry), broom (another small bush), and miles of wild grass, sheep and dirt roads. I can’t wait until spring when the laburnum trees will flower on the way down the mountain. I heard it’s like driving through an aisle of cascading yellow flowers. The air was the cleanest I’d ever remembered breathing. It was like drinking something smooth and sweet. And the silence almost sent us into spontaneous meditation. For real. It was a different world up there.
We descended at the Nant-y-moch Dam, above Ponterwyd. Are you wondering how to pronounce all these words? Yeah, it’s a struggle. But to me, the Welsh language is part of the absolute enchantment of this place. I try to use the Welsh words I learn (ugh, really I only know thank you–dioch). The Welsh language seems as elusive as the fairies you imagine hiding in the mossy-treed glades. It seems so hard to make the actual sounds, let alone remember things like double d’s make a “th” sound like “then,” not “think”–I think!!
The village of Old Corris, on the edge of the Snowdonia National Park, in the county of Gwynedd, was new to me–off the A-487 beyond Machynlleth on the way to Dolgellau. I spent some time alone wandering the little streets of this former slate-mining community. So cute! But I learned that I’d caught it on a good weather day. Apparently, it’s usually it’s enshrouded in fog and has more extreme conditions than Aber or other towns closer to the sea.
Wales is a wild place, full of fairy coves and unicorn bridges–well, “packhorse bridges,” I guess. These bridges were built with low sides or none at all so there was room for what the horses were carrying on their backs. Most of these types of bridges were built before 1800. We specifically pulled over on our drive to look at the horse bridge and even though we were modern day people in a modern day car standing on a modern day bridge, using an I-phone to take a picture, I felt transported into another era, another dimension. Outer space time for sure.
I wonder what I’ll see this weekend. Whatever it is, I’m sure it will have a strange sort of light, a feeling of another planet, a charm, a sly smile of something beyond the rugged terrain.