Janus, Edgelands and New Years Day 2022

Today felt like a day that needed to be marked somehow, so I took Fen and me off to Aust. It is such a conjunction of places, confluence and convergence, a perfect place to mark the end of the first day of a new year. For the Romans, this was a sacred day for Janus, for whom this month is named after; god of doorways, transitions, beginnings and the gateway keeper to all other gods. He stands at the edge and at the beginning of all things, and I feel a strong allegiance to him as a patron of the liminal and inbetween.

For all we are meant to set intentions, make resolutions and renew aspirations on this day, personally this feels like a numinous, luminous, wait-and-see time. Janus time. One of the thin times of the year when the world holds it’s breath somewhat. Or maybe is just resting, between the deep exhale into the dark of the winter solstice and the slow start of the inhale towards spring. So I do not make promises to myself, apart from to be open and pay attention to what-might-be.

I love it here, where the Severn starts to meet the Bristol Channel, and motorways and bridges and powerlines crisscross and connect the land, just as our rivers do. Everything here is going somewhere, even the geology that has stood sentinel for millenia but yet is slowly sliding into the estuary.

It is a crux, and I stand upon it, on new years day, at dusk, at the turn of the tides from low to high. I trace my steps along a sinuous line of washed-up reeds and seaweed that demarcate the tideline, and again I think of Janus, double-headed one, looking two ways on the edge and cusp of everything; who is also associated with motion, change, movement and even travel and shipping and trade.

It is otherworldly here, in a particularly British 1970’s sci fi way. Ancient rocks and superstructure; abandoned garden chairs and decking washed up by the tides sit next to strange lumps and bubbles of gypsum, so much of it as to litter the foreshore with luminous pink-white shards and eggs, almost glowing against the red earth. Some of it looks alien, globular, a jelly-like deposit; others are sharp edges and angles, as if a giant supercrystal fractured and splintered after crashlanding on Earth. I collect as much as my pockets can handle, plus various pigments to make paint with later – rich rust iron red, black coal, blue and yellow mud. I also collect a sheeps jawbone placed beautifully and incongruously just so on a slab of rock.

We sit for a minute, Fen and me, by the bridge pilings. She has a treat, and I have a Kitkat, and contemplate the misty shores of Wales opposite, shrouded so as to look like the mythical land of Hy-Brasil, home of magicians and giant rabbits and that can only be glimpsed every 7 years. It’s an unsettling place – oppressive, and I feel disorientated and slightly fearful. Everything feels very far away, but claustrophobic – I hear the rumble of traffic as at a distance, but also the sharp voices of walkers crossing the bridge, clear as a bell, and evening curlew calls unfurl across the marshy reedbeds.

On the way back I gather a bag of giant fallen pine cones, some to keep and some to gift,. The tree stands next to a scrub of old weeds; remnants of the fiery spears of rosebay willowherb flying wispy flags against the dry, yellow, sere grass. I pause at the viewing point by the services and I raise a piece of gypsum to the setting sun and the lit up pylon and I ask that it be charged by this lux bromalis with the blessing of Janus and of transitions. May we all be so blessed in 2022.

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