Id slept heavily in the night, sheltering in the woodland. The trees silhouetted against the whiteness of the ground creaked intermittently in the darkness; there were lines of wind blown snow frozen to the trunks. It had been luminous, in a way; the thin shadows they cast had lengthened as the moon had set. More snow fell towards dawn, drifting on the wind. It was still falling as I set off, blowing in from the coast. The sea was wild, throwing up piles of spume and flotsam onto the beach. The tide had just turned and was beginning to recede, though in places was still breaking against the cliffs. As I walked I noted how the cliffs had eroded further since the last time Id been here, chunks of sand and clay had been bitten and torn away, and there were piles of dead uprooted trees littering the shore where theyd fallen from the cliff top. Through the wind-blown snow it was possible to see the accrued strata, layered in myriad muted tones; subtle yellows, ochres and siennas that intensified towards the base into a dark, burnt umber. Millimetres of these accretions could represent thousands of years, and then there was the knowledge that each grain of sand or clay had been through this process before, maybe several times; had eroded and separated from a larger whole and had drifted down to settle on the floor of an ancient ocean. There they had accumulated in the darkness, sedimenting slowly under pressure until a geological contingency brought them to the surface again. In the layering you could see the wax and wane of ice ages, the rise and fall of the sea; the whole of our history was configured and laid out in a few meters of sand towards the top. As I looked at them the different coloured bands shifted and morphed into a deep narrative of change, one that had gathered over time and related to us the past. The more I looked at it the more I saw how we are not as we perceive ourselves to be. Evident in the layers stretching up the cliff was a sense of time that stripped away any sense of self-importance. Time seemed to drop staggeringly away, the present, the Holocene even, became insignificant. Significant to us maybe, but not to the rock, caught up at it was in the circular rhythm of depositional process, of sedimentation and erosion. It was the unconformities in what they told us that interested me the most, the lacunae between the layers that were evident in the differences in tone and angle. These represented vacuities, where the process of erosion had destroyed the continuity of the record, there were vast gaps where there was no knowledge, and no memory of what had occurred. Id been deliberating about something like this internally for a while, questioning if there was any meaning in the idea of place in the context of such change. There was a feeling that would niggle at me that it would turn out to be similar to most things and have no meaning at all. Looking at the strata it somehow felt as if it was all mapped out, that the scene changes were scripted, as was our demise. We were only very briefly aware, our perception a momentary pinprick in some vast crystalline structure of space and time. The places that were meaningful to us, as well as what we knew, would be washed away, would become sediment, would be raised back up again crushed and distorted, only to be washed away again to be lost or further disfigured. The snow was getting heavier and was beginning to build up in the folds of my clothing; the light was wan and dimming. I realised Id been standing still for a long time. There was an inevitably to it all, it seemed, and I wondered not for the first time whether we had any say in the matter. Trying to sleep that night I curled up in my bivvy bag in the shelter of a hedgerow, the snow had stopped but was drifting up on the opposite side in the wind. The night was clear and frigid, and the stars were cold and distant. I dreamt fitfully and vividly, slipping into and down through the layers. The earth I travelled through was not claustrophobic but cavernous and full of weighted space, heavy with terrific absence. At some point the dream switched to a memory and I saw again on some distant northern island the blizzard, the dim streetlights and the low silhouettes of buildings. Outside the oil and gas merchant there was a steady trickle of coal dust leaking out from the yard and spreading across the snow in the wind. Turning to look inside the gate I could dimly perceive through the rushing flakes mounds of coal formed into piles that seemed to my dreaming mind to be reminiscent of millennia, and that these were slowly disintegrating and drifting away.