Friday, August 01, 2008

Following the waters - Greenwich Park

Friday July 25, 2008:

I lay on my stomach in the shade of the holly tree near the Motherstone at Greenwich Park and listened to the world beyond. The sun pushed thick hot fingers through the sticky air. Beads of sweat coursed slowly down my neck. I breathed deeply, allowing the dark, sharp holly smell to fill me.

I was swimming. It was cool. The water was quite deep as it ran cleanly through the dark tunnels. I cleaved through it, moving strongly, lithely and elegantly. Only the sound of my limbs entering and leaving the water could be heard, echoing against the arched brickwork. The growing light lit dark gaping mouths in the curved walls on either side and sparkled on the moving water flowing from them into the larger channel in which I moved.

I found myself staring out of an arch onto a green hillside. The water flowed on into a dark tunnel under the earth. The only way I could swim on was to continue under water. I climbed out and stepped through the opening into the dazzling light of a summer’s afternoon.


A rolling meadow fell away to the banks of a great serpentine river far down below. Beyond its grey glittering expanse, green hills rose in the distance. Near the bottom of the hill stood a jagged holly tree, its dark leaves, shiny, its boughs glittering with light green beads that in winter would turn blood red. The water was calling me back.

Curiosity got the better of me and I slipped back into the cool flowing water took a huge breath and dived deep down through the submerged tunnel into the gloom. At a place where the darkness was opaque, another arching doorway led me out on to a steep hill to a scene of utter desolation. Blasted grey grass, scuffed into cindery patches lay silently under a gunmetal grey sky. Nothing moved, the curving earth seemed to have died. Where the holly tree had stood was a blackened stump. I sat down amongst the ashes and wept.

A sharp breeze blew across the bare hillside. The wind disturbed the ashes. I looked down and saw, poking out from amongst the blackened leaves, a little green shoot, and the tiniest of curling leaves slowly unfurling before me. And there was another, and another. Before my eyes, the stump began to sprout delicate shoots which pushed out towards the grey sky, uncurling hopeful tender leaves to sit and shiver in the wind. The tree was alive!

Beneath the earth, the waters rumbled, calling me back. I got up and bowed to the tree and climbed back down under ground.

The light under the water shimmered red and gold. I swam towards it and emerged into a high domed chamber, in the middle of which was a snapping, crackling fire of holly wood and leaves. I couldn’t help myself, I had to dance. The energy of the fire had me leaping amongst its flames. My dance became lighter, softer and gentler. I leaned into the heat of the fire as it rose, allowing myself to float up towards the daylight, to drift across the green hill until I came to rest, belly down beneath the arching sheltering fierce boughs of the holly tree.

“Mummy, I can smell joss sticks”, said a small Childs voice just beyond the curtain of hanging holly leaves. I breathed deeply and allowed the dark green leafy odour wreathed in burning lavender to bring me back to the present. I lay spread on the ground, by belly to the earth, my legs scratched by fallen holly leaves. The world outside was calling and I wished it would go away.

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