24th June 2014
Above the slow green river
Two journeys, one end
I love the ability of Japanese haiku to create a mind picture in just seventeen syllables.
Because less can be more.
The ability of Hardy, the ultimate wordsmith, to craft a buccolic vision of Wessex in a short paragraph, the simplicity of Vaughan William’s lark, the crimson daub of a Monet poppy.
But no stroke of pen, bow or brush can ever truly reflect or replicate the beauty that is to be found in wild places. A beauty that must be felt, smelled, heard, seen and even tasted.
A beauty that was fully enjoyed on a sultry summer’s evening three weeks ago…
After many days of glorious weather, the last dregs of sunshine were glowing like the embers of a dying fire, so a busy duty day just had to end with a cool dip on my way home.
Entirely alone, save for Marley, my clothes were soon shed in eager anticipation and I walked out across the warm sand to savour the cooling wrap of water around my skin. I swam on my back, with a curious homegrown stroke that revived memories of pondskaters – a source of endless childhood fascination.
To swim naked now seemed as normal as my next breath and I navigated into the colours of the setting sun that carelessly dappled the surface of the river. Turning onto my back, I let the current take me downstream, gathering pace as I gazed up at a cloudless sky. Far overhead a high-flying gull headed seaward.
My ears were submerged, redundant and soundless, straining against an overwhelming silence. Gradually building, a rattling of pebbles broke the peace to warn that I was approaching the shallow falls that lie below a leafy hazel overhang.
I swam back, hard against the flow and clambered high onto the moss-coated outcrop where I dived repeatedly, reaching the river’s deep bed. Here, amongst the sand and stones, a pair of pants lay discarded – perhaps the romantic remnant of a midnight dip?
And why not?
Like Adam in a pre-fall Eden, I felt no shame as I emerged from the water to dry, dress and depart for home.
But after a handful of steps I stopped, standing alone on a bank of bleached boulders. The solitude was subtly sensual. It seemed too early to go home now and I felt drawn into a Tai Chi routine, first on the bank, then in the shallows and soon, without resistance, I found myself naked once again and waist deep in water that was both warm and welcoming, My slow steady movements mirrored the passage of the river as dusk descended.
Making the traditional Tai Chi salute, I thanked the Tavy for her kindness on this balmy evening and I also thanked her creator – the God of green places.
And then, one final swim into the softness and silence of the now dark water. Gentle strokes that barely ruffled the surface – for to do so would have felt like desecration…