Climbing along a steep coastal path through a forest in southern Wales, with russet red and tawny brown autumn leaves crunching beneath my feet, I reached a crest where the trailhead looked back onto a long estuary lined with salt flats. The River Taf ran through the headlands before me, its glacier-cut course unmistakable alongside the grass-covered cliffs on either side. The sea spread out before me, a moody canvas of blues and gray. White-topped gorse and cherry-red currant bushes gave color to my panorama, the plaintive chorus of sea birds the only soundtrack.
I’d come to Wales, and to this spot specifically, to follow in the footsteps of Dylan Thomas, the Welsh-born poet who made this walk famous in his 1944 “Poem in October.” In the piece, which Thomas wrote after taking this trail on his 30th birthday, his mood shifts from ecstatic to melancholic, much like the weather did during his outing. Throughout, he describes the landscape with some of the most lyrical language I have read, and as my 3-year-old son ran joyously ahead, he became a living image of Thomas’s lines:
And I saw in the turning so clearly a child’s
Forgotten mornings when he walked with his mother
Through the parables
Of sun light
And the legends of the green chapels.
Thomas would have turned 100 this October, and, in celebration of one of Wales’s most famous figures, a year of festivities has been planned for 2014