Friday, 17 August 2012

You don't have to know

Maybe you don't have to know much about nature to appreciate it. What I mean is that learning all the fancy names of the plants and animals still doesn't capture the way a bird holds its wings to its body and defies gravity for an instant, or the simple miracle of the dandelion which begins life airborne as a seed on a parachute, trusting its destination to the whim of summer winds. If you could only focus on that simplicity, and then retain it; but no, it slips away and the burden of personal knowledge obscures the vision.

Trying to hold fast to a particular view in memory- of hills rolling out to invisibility, or the slant of sunlight through a pine forest, or the comforting roughness of the ground over which insects move oblivious of your intrusion into their world; these are remembered more as windows of stillness through which break the sound of a wood dove soothing the atmosphere, or the remote sound of voices littering forest paths which in turn absorb and leach away all meaning until the voices are as brittle and fragile as paper-thin porcelain.

I am in Leicester sitting under a tree in a park, reading, but I am not in Leicester. The tree I sit under and the immediate area of ground I occupy have been planted into the landscape of the novel, and I look out for someone- a stranger, but someone I know- to come up the rise towards me.

He will point at the book I'm reading as he stands over me and I will show him the title. He will nod in approval and sit near me without asking, without saying a word, because he is in his own world, and I in mine.

His attention is diverted by the view anyway. I clear my throat but still he does not turn. I look at the back of his neck, black hair curling on a blue check shirt, before returning to my book.

The sun goes behind clouds and I look up. I never heard the man move but he has gone. I stand up and look around the tree but he is nowhere in sight.

I shrug, close my book and run down the green slope, skipping when I think no one is looking. A cold beer waits in the fridge, and a phone call from a friend.

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