Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Torrent Walk (Afon Wnion)

Friday April 20, 2007

The sun was still warm as we squeezed through the kissing gate and down onto the rocky path of the Torrent Walk by the Afon Wnion. The river tumbles amongst rocks in a series of small waterfalls and pools in a beech lined little ravine. Constructed by the Victorians, it offers a pleasant scramble beside the river and on this sunny evening was dappled and cool.

Rocks and roots ridged the treacherous path between small flights of uneven steps. The river bubbled and gurgled beside us as we picked our way carefully down, the dog running before us plunging into every wet ditch she could find.

I climbed a bank and sat on a bench breathing in the pungent wild garlic scent. The river sang to the birds who sang back. All around us, beings watched without curiosity as my companion walked back along the path to see if he could find the car key he had accidentally dropped earlier. Feeling certain that he would, I sat back and drank in the peace of the place.

The beings of the place watched from the shadows. They were calling me to the water. The river being some feet below us down a steep rocky bank, we decided to walk on. Down some more steps and an ankle turning scramble along, wild garlic edged the path. It was in flower, adding sweetness to the pungency. We gathered some to add to our evening meal and stumbled on.

The path finally came closer to the river’s level. Below us, under a steep bank, there was a small river beech. Scrambling with little dignity down upon my bottom, I settled down to play with the pebbles.

The dog, with a bark of delight, plunged straight into the water and began swimming vigorously. She whined and sang in a wordless doggy kind of yodel which soon turned into a gargle as she stuck her head under water.

It seemed to me that the beings laughed. I certainly did, for she was so full of joy and was so very ridiculous too! I sat and fingered the pebbles, picking out the neatest and smoothest of them. My companion yelped as he dipped his feet into the freezing water. The dog swam about, dashing out from time to time to shake herself all over us as though to say “ooh it’s all lovely and wet”.

The sun shifted and the air cooled. It was time to go. The dog was finally persuaded to come out of the water and we set off up the rocky path to the bridge.

But the river was still calling me. I climbed up onto the stone parapet and sat warming myself in the last of the sun’s rays as my companion went to fetch the car.

Birds sang and the river whispered as it flowed beneath my feet. “Come in, come in” it called.

I was diving down, down and down into its cool silvery green depths. I lay on my back floating upstream, watching the refracted images of the overhanging trees, the dappled sunlight and the blue sky above as they shimmered through the water above me. I let the river take me till, wanting to be in control; I flipped over and swam faster and nearer the bank.

There was the dark hole, a tunnel under the water line. I darted into its mystery and followed it as it curved and moved along and around the bank. Crossing water-filled chambers, I moved into other passageways leading me on.

The water became thick with mud. I slowed and began to move differently. Soon I was undulating through the thick cloying earth which began to hold me firmly until I rested still, enclosed and quiet at last in the dark.

The world turned. Time moved on. I began to move, to wriggle then slither and finally, pushing out from the mud into clearer water, to swim again. I was swimming back to a light shimmering through the dark water.

And now I was back in the silver green river. Dark tendrils, a lighter brown patch and two green eyes met mine, gazed and were gone. I recognised the river goddess I had met before. Back up the river I swam, back to the bridge. Like a dog, I leapt from the river, shaking the water off my coat, ran up onto the bridge and to the parapet.

Moving my stiff limbs, I stretched and began to hum with the wind in the trees, a song to the river.

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