Saturday, October 24, 2009

24 Swallow Dance

Saturday October 24, 2009:

Invisible wind, cool and moist
Dance the trees, Sing the leaves.
Dapple my cheek with soft wet kisses
Lift me,
Exquisite wind
Fly me hhome.

“Ah” I sigh, the sound catches in my throat and I feel a movement in my chest. The drizzle is gentle, tapping lightly at exposed skin. It is the wind that draws that sigh of heartfelt contentment, southerly, soft but firm. Cooling rather than biting, it arrives, says “hello” and hangs around to be appreciated.

Today’s companion is full of knowledge about Alexander Palace Park, in North London. We walk from tree to tree, appreciating, respecting, and saluting them one by one. I never knew the park held such lovely spaces, places where those who love the land have worked for years, small groves, curving hillocks, curious trees whose spirits, watch, welcome and allow. I am filled with gratitude for her, this place and the day.

We’re here because I want to find a high hill on which to dance with the swallows. At this time of migrating birds, I want to discover and then bring forward for appreciation what it is that will sustain me through the winter. It seems appropriate therefore to do this with the birds that are now flying south to the place that will sustain them for their winter too. The swallows are flying across Europe to Africa. The turns are arriving from the north to overwinter in these more gentle lands. Everywhere, the land makes preparation for the winter.

We climb to the highest part of the hill. Facing south, the Thames valley spreads out below us. Through trees, the buildings set themselves out in their accustomed places under the grey sky. St Paul’s, Canary Warf, the Dome and beyond them, Crystal Palace and the hills of the North Downs are revealed to me through my companion’s description. , my city lies before me, my home.

“Come feathered ones, dance on the breeze,
Wings beat the rhythm of the turning world,
Come dancing ones, soar to the sun
Gilded bright upon your outreached wings,
Come gliding ones, turn and eddy on the wind
Circle, spin and flow,
Come powerful ones, muscles strong and flexed
Cleave through the eddying air

I let the wind move me as I stand, feet apart, strong and grounded on the curve of the earth. My arms curved like the wings of the swallow, I rock.

“What is it that will see me through the winter?” I ask myself.

Oh how the earth spins. Below, the trees, buildings, grey snaking roads and grey glistening rivers whirl giddily. I feel the power in my shoulders and pound the air as I soar up towards the pale golden glimmer beyond the opaque clouds.
The land below parts and allows the glimmering grey green sea to spread itself widely. I see in its reflection a thousand curving dark shapes surrounding the curve that is me. We are all swooping and soaring. I am flying with the swallows!

We fly in a great flock, wings beating pattering vigorously as they chitter-chitter-chitter-chitter-chitter-chee-eek!” cheerfully to each other.

I laugh, throwing back my head and reaching out my arms and am precipitated into a roll as I “chitter-chitter-chee-eek” back to them in sheer delight. My stomach drops and I gasp, rolling again, just because I can.

Down on the earth, I begin to dance. I dance with the wind, turning, bending reaching out my arms. Bending my back. I am elegant, joyful and flowing. I dance, moving my feet, turning with the wind and the toggles of my rain jacket swing wildly as I move. I gather up the air and waltz it around, tenderly embracing it, then letting it fall; I dance my heartbeat, my breath, the wind and the soft gentle rain.

“Wearing my bright winged feathers as I fly,
Wearing my bright winged feathers as I fly,
I circle around,
I circle around,
The boundaries of the earth.”

I sing and I dance and I know that this is what will get me through the winter. I will dance on the land to the song of my body. This will be my life dance and my gift to the day.
A second voice joins with mine. My companion steps into the circle. Together we dance the space of our casting, laughing and singing, our voices weaving in and out of each others as we weave in and out of the space.

In time, we are still. And the dancing birds are thanked and we move off to find lunch.

Later, we stand on the edge of a lake whilst the turns, newly arrived from the north, shriek and fight over tossed bits of bread. My companion marvels at how they don’t get their tails wet, at their round buoyancy and their determined snatching of food from under the beaks of the swans. I shriek, honk and quack at the cheerfully importuning waterfowl at our feet and am happy.

Later still, I hold a slim birch tree in my hands as she sways with the wind. Shifting and moving oh so gently against my tender fingers, I am moved by the simplicity of her dance.

“Beautiful wind, aid the migrants as they fly home. May they arrive safely and return to dance in our skies once more when the sun is reborn.

“Ah” I sigh stroking the elegant birch. Thank you for the dance, Lady of the Woods,” I say, and turning, follow my companion through the cops and back to the road.


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