Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Birch, the bog and the blackbird
Thursday April 10, 2008:

The dew was wet on the grass as I edged across the bumpy lawn to my temporary sit space in a large birch tree in the hostel garden. It had once been three trunked but someone had cut off the middle one which now made a more or less comfy perch. I eased my sleep stiffened limbs down and made my morning circle.

In the tree above me, a blackbird was giving it some welly! He had been singing practically non stop since I arrived three days before. Yesterday, I had snuck out early in the morning and had sat singing back at him, mirroring his song phrase by crazy phrase. AS my rather naff whistle-less whistling merged with his glorious fluting, I swear he began to wait for me to finish the phrase before he started on the next one. Before long I was in a significantly altered state and both that bird and this old bird were happy.

Anyway, this morning I felt the need to be with the spirit of the tree and let the beautiful blackbird song wash me clean as I sat and breathed with the tree.

I was pushing my way through a dark and scratchy tangled mass of briars and thorns. The mud sucked at my feet. The overpowering smell of damp pungent rotting vegetation assailed me as I pushed on forward.

The mud became a miry pool. I began to paddle, and then wade, eventually to swim, heaving my way through as the cloying mud encased me. I was seized by an incredibly dull and intense cold. My whole body began convulsively to shake.

A sulphurous rotting stench seized me by the throat. My eyes watered and I began to cough, so strong was it. Mud caked my face, its sludginess smearing me all over, slug-like creeping into my nose, ears and mouth. I couldn’t breathe. I was drowning.

Desperately I struggled. Thrashing against the thickly congealing mud, I pushed a hand, an arm then a shoulder free, reaching out and seizing the rough tufts of grass, my hand closing on razor-sharp leaves, I tried to heave myself free. Fingers sinking into the muddy bank, I clawed and grabbed at anything to leaver myself up.

Legs pinioned, heavily the mud embrace me, I wriggled and rocked, every vantage, every inch of gain of freedom, inexorably sucked back by the stubborn bog. My back found something harder, a slab of rock, and I braced against it, pushing myself up, inch by inch, out into the cool air.

I lay pewling on the muddy grass. Its rough sharpness cut my soft new babies flesh. A huge paw slid under my tummy and gently lifted me. I was clamped heavily to a warm and musty furry chest. I nuzzled close, still whimpering as big paws soothed and gentled me. I lay against the furriness and slept.

Light danced behind shifting shapes above me. The crisp-cross of branches against a soft blue sky was gilded with the light of a morning sun. It licked at my face as I lay, flat on my back on the cool grass, my fingers teasing soft new grassy growth. High above, a blackbird sang out. Across the sky, another answered.

With my back to the trunk, I breathe in the smell of the spring morning. My body zings and tingles and is echoed in the humming vibrating tree at my back.

The blackbird trills in glorious haphazard arpeggios of liquid joy. He takes a tune, sings it out, and then tries another and another. No phrase is repeated although he has some favourite motifs, every phrase ends in a characteristic whistling raspberry. I smile to hear him, blow him another kiss and rise, stretching out to meet the sun shining down on another new and shiny day in which I am glad to be alive.

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