Thursday, May 01, 2008

Rain-washed May time – Hampstead Heath and Finsbury Park

8:45 pm, Wednesday April 30, 2008:

It was pouring! The rain slapped my head and shoulders heavily as I sheltered shivering under my kagool in the dripping garden. Yomping about on the heath in the pouring rain at the crack of dawn was not going to be much fun if it continued to be like this tomorrow.

I allowed the rain to soak me. I connected with the bubbling rivulets pouring down the big leaved plants all around me, allowed my feet to paddle playfully in the standing water on the garden path. I breathed in the cool dampness of the night garden, the blossom-filled tender sweet air, and listened to the song of the rain, pattering, dripping and hissing against the city’s nocturnal sounds-scope.

“Rain-maker! I called to the wet garden. “Water-maker, I salute you and your allies and friends the Frogs and slugs and all things wet and oozing. I bow to you for your great work hydrating the planet! Rain your fill all this night but by the darkest hour before the dawn, please stop!”

The wind belched a mouthful of rain into my face. The elegant branches of the rowan tree under which I stood, trembled and shook, showering me with a mist of fine drops. Taking this as a sign that I’d been heard, I thanked the spirits of rain and asked that they desist until 9 tomorrow.

3:35am, Thursday May 1, 2008:

All was quiet in the garden as I eased my way between the wet leaves skirting the path. Only the city roads somewhere in the distance hummed quietly. It had stopped training!

I called the pidgin. A potent symbol of London for me, I asked him to take a message to its citizens this morning. I wished for Londoners to exercise wisdom as they went about their democratic duty and voted in the Mayoral and Assembly elections today. I wished them dry journeys to and from the polling stations! I thanked the rain spirit once more and left the still sleeping wet garden for environs less sleepy but probably much more damp!

4:10 am Thursday May 1, 2008:

Rain-washed, soft new leaves uncurl,
May perfumed, the morning breathes.
Sunrise warmed, the world awakes,
A blackbird sings a loud halloo!

The minicab drove quietly through the still sleeping streets. At every turning, at every corner, a blackbird sang out into the dark before dawn. AS we drew up at the meeting point, a particularly vigorous blackbird sang a prolonged and particularly complicated joyful cadenza. I got out of the mini cab and, oblivious of what the taxi driver thought, bowed and blew a kiss at the still singing bird.

Having route-marched energetically up a steep inclined tarmac path, we struck out across the bumpy tufted grass in search of Boudica’s mound, somewhere beyond Kite Hill. The ground was sodden and muddy, pitted and humped. I placed each foot deliberately as I walked, breathing in the sweet sharp smell of new crushed grass and the more subtle perfume of the may blossom.

We shinned over the railings girdling Boudica’s Mount and gathered with the prancing “Obby “Os to make wishes and greet the sunrise. The clouds Lowe over the city my companions informed me, were silver and softly pink in the east, promising a possible sighting of the sun itself before long. Our wishes made, our songs sung and our greetings to the dawn performed, we clambered back to the public heath and headed towards the Kenwood Spring.

The mud beneath the grass gave and sunk softly as we stomped on. The little streams criss-crossing our path were swollen and burbling. More than once, my feet slid dangerously as I pressed them firmly in the mud to keep from slipping. Still the rain held off; the birds sang and the air, light and silvery-grey blue now, was being warmed by the shy sun up in the heavens.

We danced and sang at the well, and blessed ourselves with the water. I cupped my hands and drank greedily from its rusty coolness, and felt myself refreshed.

Joggers passed us in varying states of cheerfulness or grumpiness. WE walked back across the heath, past the Women’s Pond and the place where some millionaire, who lived in a huge house on the heath and who, against the wishes of the whole community, wanted to build another mansion.

The may blossom dripped against the rain shiny new green leaves. I tucked a cool sprig behind my left ear and marched off to breakfast.

2pm Thursday May 1, 2008:

It still wasn’t raining! I took a cup of tea out to thank the slowly drying garden. Surrounded by damp large leaved plants, I sat down to listen to it.

Were those quiet footfalls on the path or something else? I distinctly heard the slap of bare feet on flagstones. I waited.

My back against a rough barked tree, I watched the forest. A jungle of trees stood entwined together but with space to move between. I watched the hawthorn leaves, new green and curled, the blossom amongst them shaking in the gentle breeze.

And in amongst them, I saw her; slight and young, bark brown hair wreathed in may, her outfit, the green of new leaves, delicate and silky. She gazed back at me from dark eyes in a triangular and delicate face before, with a gust of wind, the bough moved and she was gone.

I got to my feet and began to explore the shrubs in the garden. Thick stems, round with juicy sap curved elegantly to present the flat of their leaves to the sun. Among them the thorned boughs of hawthorn, budded and silken leaves, still moist with last night’s rain.

I moved gently between the plants. They grasped my clothing and snatched at my naked arms and hands. I submitted to their rough embrace, welcoming their spiky presence as a deterrent against intruders.

“Thwoh-thwoh-thwoh” beat the wings of the garden birds as they flew about between the trees and shrubs. A robin chirruped in the trees beyond the garden fences; in the distance the blackbird called to a cawing crow who answered back crossly. My hands found the herbs and, stroking their aromatic leaves gently, I gathered some to dry. I could stay here for ever, so peaceful and lovely was it.


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