Saturday, December 23, 2006

Dancing the River

Invisible mist nibbled at me as we climbed down onto the grubby old river beach. It was barely six thirty on a cold late December morn but a blackbird was singing cheerfully in a nearby tree. As I listened to his song, I let his liquid fluting wash me clean in honour of the solstice.

The beach was roughly cast with bits of concrete, matted and lumpy sand, loose slithering shingle and occasional other pieces of unknown and unrecognisable city detritus, some of them probably unspeakably disgusting. My feet slipped dangerously as we walked to the water’s edge.

Although it was not yet dawn, my companion told me that it was light enough to see the water, the rocks, lumps of concrete and the opposite bank and the angular and jagged city-scape. A mist moved slowly around the buildings, oozing in-between us, as we stood quietly casting the circle.

I listened to the river. Almost silent, it lapped politely, ladylike, genteelly rocking and slowly stilling to almost nothing, neat and decorous in its stillness.

I was held in its enfolding arms. It waltzed me resolutely along, caught me in the inexorable movement of it’s invisible tide. Unable to resist, I allowed myself to be danced by its coolness.

In the distance, a rumbling grew louder and louder. A police launch, occupants quietly scanning the shore line, pushed through the water.

Suddenly, the river danced, cheerfully flinging up its skirts and skipping for sheer joy. It tossed itself back and forth, tumbled and rolled, gabbling and tinkling in an excess of unladylike capers. I smiled to hear it and felt the heavy blanket slip slightly.

Two crows called hoarsely to each other across the quiet river. The city groaned and began to heave itself awake. The mist nipped at my nose and ears.

The water sucked insistently at my feet. Behind my closed eyes, the image of a muddy-eyed, tangle-haired, thin-faced woman of indeterminate age gazed at me quietly.

Silently, I thanked the lady of the river, and opened the circle. My companion and I then walked carefully back across the beach, up the uneven concrete steps to the already bustling morning street, to tea, toast and scrambled eggs.


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