Sunday, February 08, 2009

Babe in the curricle

Monday February 2, 2009:

I kneel before the unlit gas fire and carefully construct the Bridie bed. I line a basket with soft wool and silk, cover with faux fur and lay the bed down upon a little woolly rug. My fingers tenderly touch each texture, imagining what it would be like to creep beneath those covers and sleep. I sigh and remember the embracing snow outside. There’s still time to savour the dark.

“Dom-dom, Dom-Dom, dom-dom” The little drum beats a heartbeat and I sit down beside the Bridie bed. In my mind, I am out in the cold dark garden, still shrouded in thick soft snow, its surface hardening under the frosty sky.

Nothing moves but the beat of my feet, treading carefully and purposefully between the shrubs, under the arches, beneath the trees. Around me, clusters of snow flowers caught in the leaves of the trees slip easily out of their embrace and fall with a thwat. The wind shivers the branches. Droplets of frozen snow caught in the apex of two twigs meeting slip slowly and scatter, pitter-patter onto the frozen ground below.

I listen to the drum beat and breathe. The world is enfolded in Bridget’s mantle. It sleeps like a babe in a basket, lying mute and at peace beneath the soft covers, girding its strength for the returning light and the growing time.

The birch tree stands silvery and black, tall and graceful, its delicate branches reaching out to the slender rowan growing just on the other side of the path. They lean towards each other, their trembling fingers entwine. I walk under the dark arch that is their meeting point.

Trees line the path, growing together over my head, they make a dark lacy tunnel against the silvery sky, their branches, dusted with snow highlight their tangled structure. Beneath them lies the shimmering snow. I walk amongst them, placing my feet carefully, reaching out to touch their trunks as they edge closer, inclining towards me as I moved deeper and deeper into the woods.

Now I am edging carefully between them. Easily they relinquish their snowy gifts. Soon I am covered in snow. Tongues of cool iciness have found their way down my back; have slid between my breasts under my coat. I push on.

The snow creaks and groans under my feet. Snow plops wetly from the shivering branches as I pass. The wind softly sighs against my warm cheek. Nothing moves but the snow and me.

The path opens out into a small clearing. There amongst the white snow shines a cluster of creamy rocks surrounding a silver pool. As I move closer, I see that the pool ripples, is fed by a small tumbling spring whose tinkling voice I can now hear. I move closer.

I kneel in the snow and lean over the pool. Below me, my face shivers in the softly moving water. I nod to myself and then plunge my hand in, braking up the image, sending it spinning to the edges of the pool.

I scoop up the icy water, drink greedily its cold freshness, feel its coolness travelling through my body, spreading out to my very fingertips in a silvery sense of peace. It is the clear sharpness of spring water. It is the soft smoothness of fresh milk. It is sweet yet savoury, reviving yet soothing. I drink deeply.
I am sated. Refreshed and renewed. But I can’t move. The shimmering image in the water gazes up at me. I am transfixed.

The gurgling of the stream catches my attention. I see now that the spring feeds a little stream as well as this pool. It meanders amongst the rocks, across the clearing and disappears into the dark woods. I get up and follow it.

The walking is hard. The trees have grown so close to the water that I have to skirt round them. Time and again, I am led back to its side by its persistent bubbling voice.
The river leads me through the woods, to the edge of a cliff above a rocky beach. It tumbles down into a water hollowed bowl where it bubbles and churns effervescently before spilling over the rim and streaming across the pebbles to the sea.

I follow, slipping and sliding, stumbling, turning my ankles, falling, then getting up again and doggedly going on. At last I arrive on the beach, a small cove, littered with boulders and little rock pools. The pebbles slide beneath my feet as I step carefully to the gently lapping edge of the sea.

Alone on the beach, I watch the tide ebb and flow. I look out to see and notice the silver line at the place where sea meets sky. All is quiet, nothing moves but the sea and the lazy tongue of water that was the stream.

The light on the horizon becomes brighter. I watch it spreading, the silver turning to a soft gold, the sky lightening into the beginnings of the palest of grey blues. And there in front of me, a curricle bobs on the waves. Slowly, it moves towards me, carried on the gentlest of tides until it beaches at my feet.

Kneeling down, I look into the boat. There, wrapped in silks and furs a child sleeps peacefully, her soft skin creamy and pink, her hair the lightest of red-gold. One plump arm is flung around the neck of a sleeping creamy woolly lamb. Cheek to cheek they lie, softly breathing, at peace and safe.

I watch and wonder. What should I do with these two dear lambs? Should I carry them from the Sea or let it take them where it will?

The sun rises slowly above the horizon. I turn back to the pool and see, picked out in the sun’s first ray, a delicate fragile snowdrop, her demure head gently drooping. I go to her, kneeling and bowing my head. I reach out to stroke her, to cradle her little soft head between my fingers. Her cool silkiness is like the gentlest of kisses.

Then she is lying in my palm, accidentally plucked from between the rocks where she grew. I am sorry and feel ashamed. Tears prick my eyes. I don’t know what to do.

I go back to the child in the curricle. I tuck the little snowdrop into the blankets; rest its soft silkiness against the sleeper’s warm cheek. Under my hand, the boat bobs. A wave bigger than the rest lifts the vessle, spins it and gently bears it out to see.
Standing among the breaking waves I bow to the retreating boat. On the wind, I’m sure I hear a lamb bleating and a baby’s gurgling laugh. I turn back and walk up the beach to the stream and the pool.

It’s a hard scrabble up through the woods. Is that the old moon I can see peaking out from amongst the latticework of branches? I’m not sure. Is that a feather laid across it, I muse as I walk through the woods or a trick of the light against the twigs? I think about new beginnings, of commitments and of letting go of what no longer serves me.

“I leave behind panic an fear of failure” I say to the tangled trees, pushing my way into the clearing. I take with me the courage to lead,” I declare to my reflection in the shimmering pool. “I trust and honour myself as a witch, a crip and a dyke in how I serve London,” I vow, cupping my hands and drinking deeply of the icy water.

“Dom-dom, dom-dom, dom-dom, the voice of the drum calls me back. The room is warm. Outside, the wind rattles the windows.

“Blessings upon you Bridget”, I say, pouring her out some cool water, placing seeds in a bowl and a creamy white oatcake on a little plate.

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