Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Falling And Laughing


river Exe



Wipers smudge road spray from the brow of the car. Even through the last of these storm clouds a staring light necessitates dark glasses. The windows are open, finding some freshness from the warm wet ground. We are on our way to Granma Grace, Dog and I, running late, catching up time.
I had put my food bag in the foot-well at a poor angle; on arrival I find blood from Dog's food has spilt and everything needs rinsing out: my breakfast strawberries smell of butchery.

We had caught up with time - Granma was sleeping, oblivious - so we took the parking pass to the car and embarked on our routine stroll by the river, walking on a shadow strewn path past the shallow water where the summer has sprung a mush of weed and iris leaves are striking up from soft mud. Where two gulls struggle for mastery of a pigeon corpse, in full view of the other pigeons; for which I criticise the victor and it flies off.

Dog is at a nonchalant trot, smelling stories out of grass. 
Later we will find a deeper river, swim together through reflections of sky and treetops. Maybe a kingfisher will swoop, maybe dragonflies. Maybe trout will brave a swim-by. Maybe Dog will keep herself busy and not excitedly fetch sticks to me while I'm wrestling out of wet clothes in the undergrowth and do not wish to be noticed.
A swan hisses but we're out of reach.

At Granma's a clock ticks, a sleeping breath rolls gently out-in. Dog is glad to have her food. Strawberries smell like strawberries. Coffee brown and soft as mud in the mug I like with the pale pattern of roses. 
I am - again-  readying to consult the internet for news of land for sale. 
I will need more coffee and maybe a bowl of ice-water to drop my brain into.
Much as Dog sniffs findings from ground sources, every piece of land holds for us a future story direction, a mass of potential for joy and/or desperation.
In truth I am ashamed of finding this process difficult. Our means are meagre or amazing, depending on the financial privilege of the onlooker. We have made a simplifying list: a need for water, power, access, trees, isolation, affordability; which has thwarted our hearts cursedly now, but of course we will be glad of it... eventually... Sometimes the adventure is squashed by the responsibility we have to the dream becoming real. There is climate emergency, there is political chaos enabling horror: how to be sure we are combating that? Sometimes the reality is threatened by the power of the dreams, the fun we can have: though fun is essential. Sometimes I remember that the difficulty is part of the adventure: is the very peril I thrive upon: I should not have forgotten.

Later, maybe, when we're walking, Dog and I, we will find a suitable tree. I will practice balancing, remember my rules to live by (courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self control, indomitable spirit). I will know that life rarely lacks regret, but here too should be balance: it is possible to enjoy doing what you shouldn't have done: it is all part of your story and your flow of learning.
I will think of the river and how stagnation breeds poison.
I will be lost in laughter if I fall, and, dear reader, you will be welcome to join me.


River swim at Plymbridge

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

The Hedgebirds And The River Jump





It was the second time I had witnessed this death.
A small bird, a hedge bird, skimming traffic, mistimed.
The first time I heard the thunk, saw the bird spin. This second time I see the body, the size of my fist, hit the road's edge; I see the last breaths drawn in; breaths that seem bigger than the body. 
A sadness strikes through me: for the creatures' fate, for the parallel with the plight of earth; a heavy hold of it.
All day I cannot be comfortable, cannot find peace with it.

Inaction seems like inertia, seems the wrong surrender.
But what action is required: how to push this weight? How to use it?
To make a pendulum and keep hope?
I take my sun-heated brain to the river to think.
It will be different for each of us, says brain, from the willow's shade, though maybe the crux is the same: along the waterway comes a decisive breeze, trailing its weather-fingers through leaves, stirring the river's surface where beady eyed fish pop up to swallow gnats, where kingfishers dart to stab up fish, where storm-felled trunks stick out leafy growths - fuelled by what? And why?
I look.
This instinct towards life has common root. This is the comfort the river brings.
Even in the murk, under the weed, in the mud, bubbles are streaming up.
There's probably more to it, says brain, but please now may I have a nap?
So we walk home, making our cooled feet dusty, and rest.

Art, says brain (quoting Tolstoy) is a hammer, not a mirror.
Rest has been restorative, says I, recovering myself, recovering love, regathering my river kit.
I raise myself - above the river pool, on the little poser's ledge - leaping (taking my dull throbbing fear of heights with me) and jump.
A hammer can swing, and spark joy - retaliative, effervescent!
And with those thoughts we will march: towards the beautiful strike, where the hammer breaks the fear and we dare.


In my garden, hedge birds sing and hop, and nourish the ground, while the river wet t-shirt drips from a line. I'm not a natural diver, I tell them, but the hopeful leap is a worthy start.