Just A Moment

Ride the Ripples of Time with Lynda Bullock

                                                             Dark Angel

He lurched down the street in apparent drunkenness, hunched into a dark, stained overcoat, the collar upturned, half hiding his face.  Yellow lamps spilled pools of cold light into puddles that splashed over his tired feet and seeped into the worn shoes.  His jaw was clenched, thin mouth set against a wind that howled into every crevice, while his pale, world-weary eyes observed all from beneath hooded lids.  With head bowed, he avoided the scornful looks of passers-by, melting into yards and alleyways; friends only with shadows.  It did not do to mix with those around him. He could not. It was not his purpose. Though once .....

Something made him pause.  Something made him listen.  Extending his senses he heard what polite society did not want to and from a distance, carried on a wave of panic, came a scream.  At once his back straightened, his gait steadied and quickened and the smell of crime guided him swiftly to the spot.  There in a heartbeat, he knelt at her side, soothing away pain and fear with soft words barely spoken, while using a tool of the modern world that shunned him, he raised the alarm and sent out a message for help.  

Sirens wailed like banshees and vapid blue light soon illuminated her broken body.  Others tended her now, while he slipped back into the shadows, the rustle of pinioned wings folding back beneath the dirty overcoat mistaken for wind-blown autumn leaves.  

 

Originally a poem in "Transition - or Three And A Bit" published 2003 - later republished as the above in "Light and Shade" 2006 

                                                              Fallen Star

It was so dark that night. Dark as if the sun had burned to ashes and snuffed out the light of all the stars. In the desert I stood, restless, woken from a disturbed sleep.  There was not a breath of wind and the air was heavy with expectation. It weighed on my shoulders, almost it seemed. holding its own breath. I was suffocating.

The tents were silent. Everyone slept. I left them to their dreams and wandered slowly towards the hills. Hills that rose against the vastness of that great black sky.  A sky that had become a void. Yet as I climbed I saw a light; at first so distant and so faint that I thought to be deceived. The air, no longer still, was charged as with the coming of a storm.

Upon a peak I sat and watched. Watched with awe as the lightening struck again and again. Sulphurous fumes assailed by senses and I heard terrible voices within the thunder.  Voices that spoke in tongues I did not understand and yet they chilled me with fear.  It was a battle.  A battle of forces so great no mere mortal could comprehend.

I could not move.  My gaze was transfixed as the Heavens erupted with fire. Bolt of energy seared the ground.  Spears of light blinded my eyes.  For the count of many heartbeats I was turned to stone.  And then the clouds unfurled and a single star, as bright as the light of all the worlds, shot forth and fell to earth.  So close to me did it fall that I was burned by its passing and the great wind that followed in its wake blew me from the mountain.

Near blind I crawled to the spot where the star had fallen and, still upon my knees, looked up into the face of an Angel. Dark of feature was he.  Anger there was on his brow and in his eyes, disbelief.  Upon his back the golden wings were already withering.  His  pride was etched in the taut lines of his jaw and the set of his shoulders, but it was bruised.  He had lost the battle.  He was cast out. 

He stared at me for the length of a lifetime and then, swearing vengeance, disappeared.  Mine was the first soul he took.

 

From Clearing Out The Attic - by me - 2006 

                                                        Under The Clouds

 

I

The quietness was compelling.  Addictive. Not silence, for there was always the chatter of small birds or, if one listened a little harder, the gurgling of water as it trickled between the crevices of rock.  The bleating of sheep he had quickly learned to ignore and was now such a constant sound, like the birds, that it faded into the background. Everything faded into the background if you stared at it long enough. The lush bracken merged with the tussocky grass and the trees somehow flattened into the hillsides or were swallowed up in the shadowy folds and hollows. Only the fading heather stood out, blotches of copper against an otherwise green landscape.  Then there was the sky. On a sunny day such blue, like Wedgewood porcelain, or lapis lazuli and the clouds, white and cream, bubbling slowly like immense cauldrons of cream.  Beneath the sun all was brightness, the streams sparkling and reflective, the vegetation lush and verdant, but under cloud ... yes, under cloud the world changed.  Such intimidating greys and menacing charcoals. There was a different air to breathe, a paler light to see by, stillness to think. Time. Time was different under cloud.  Life’s threats were different.

Was he threatened?  The sense of threat was still felt, but then, it had been there before. Before he came here. So .... ?

He let out a long, slow breath and the word beautiful sprang to mind.  Was the valley truly beautiful beneath this glaring sun?  It startled him somewhat and he blinked at the hills, no longer certain he knew the meaning of the word. From where he sat, he could see beyond the immediate ridge in front of him to two further hills.  Like three, great, stubby fingers they stretched away to his left, their sides like crushed velvet, their further reaches lost in a haze of smoky blues.  If he stretched out his own hand, he felt he could touch them, trace the gulleys and feel the smoothness.  Frowning, he withdrew his distant gaze and sat back against the rock behind him. He was perched on an outcrop and the moss and stubbly patches of grass were warm.  The lichens on the stone were yellow and orange, yet here and there were patches of grey-green like reindeer moss, dried and withered, their frilly edges lifting free as his fingers absently toyed with them. He could almost see where the countless grazing sheep had nibbled at the fronds, the bitten ends clipped as if by small scissors and, here and there, delicate cobwebs of roots lay shrivelling where rough feet had disturbed the thin earth and exposed them.  He shook his head to himself, bemused by his interest in this microscopic world.  Why did he look so intently? How could he see so clearly?

It was the sun going in that roused him from such observations.  The dazzling brightness had gone and he was no longer squinting.  The sharp contrasts had disappeared and there was just a flat light beneath the greying clouds.  Yet oh what clouds they now were. Layer upon layer, building, folding over themselves. Patches of magnificent indigo now seeped through where only minutes before had been a Mediterranean blue. The white hot orb of the sun no longer penetrated. Rolls of clouds the colour of a heron’s feathers spread out like splayed wings. Behind them were more acres of sky, building to a frenzy.

Nothing moved.  In that moment of stillness, everything held its breath.  Everything waited.  And in that moment he had a sudden urge to run, to fly, to seek shelter, but it was already too late. A keening wind swooped raptor-like down the valley.  It swept against his face in a thrilling sensation, sending unexpected vibrations through his tense body, to then rush skyward again towards those great anvils of majesty and portent. The waiting ended in an almost anticipated eruption of storm. An explosion of elemental power unleashed the first, deluging rain drops and they spattered on the rocks, almost sizzling on the warmed stone and then the full storm broke full overhead. He shrank back against the rocks, pulse quickening, a strange blanket of excitement engulfing him. He felt a smile tear at his mouth as he hugged his knees to his chin. He had never felt like this before. Never felt so close to – what was it that so stirred him? That made the blood pump in his veins? That made his body tingle with an almost feral voracity? He felt so alive!

As the storm abated so he stood and made his way back to the cottage, noting every rock, every rivulet of water, every rustle in the bracken, every bleat of the sheep and every beat of his heart. Alongside him a pair of ravens rose up from the hillside and the chock of their call as they flew and flipped onto their backs and glided away struck a chord deep within him. Such a sound.  Like no other bird call.

His path took him across the slope of the hill; a ribbon of wet string unravelling before him. Slowly he climbed up onto the ridge to stand and gaze back the way he had come. The clouds were thinning and pale shafts of sunlight were beginning to break through, bringing back blueness and brightness. It was going to be a beautiful evening. Ah, beauty. How easily was that word used? How carelessly. Like love. Another smile tugged at his mouth; ragged and rueful. Then a laugh escaped him, self-mocking and bitter. Brief. He turned his back on the valley, cut across the top of the escarpment until the further slope began its descent to a more tamed landscape.  On the far side of a rough field edged with ancient, gnarled hawthorns was a cottage, run-down and all but forgotten.  The dark rafters, the low ceiling, the flag-stoned floor all swallowed him up.  Crouching before the soot-darkened hearth, he put a match to the kindling in the grate, waiting patiently for the wood to catch before adding logs. The fire leaped and the shadows danced on the whitewashed walls and his staring eyes grew, the pupils huge and black. Two fat candles stood atop the mantelpiece and he lit them from the flames. Around him the structure creaked and knocked as it settled, like him, for the night.  Comfortable in the confines of the old armchair, he stretched his long legs to the heat, rested his chin on his hand and wondered. Wondered not for the first time recently who he was, for he wasn’t who he used to be – wasn’t what he used to be. Under the sky, everything changed.

It was dark when he came back to himself. His damp clothes had dried where he sat, but the fire had burned low. Cat-like he stretched and then knelt, coaxing fresh tinder to flame, adding sticks and finally another large log. Standing, he swept his unruly straight hair from his face and propped one foot against the edge of the hearth. Slowly the candlelight steadied as his own movements ceased and he pushed his hands into his pockets, stared down at the burning wood.  Outside the wind had died, but he could hear the gentle, hypnotic patter of rain falling again and, closer at hand,  a drip from somewhere; perhaps a broken gutter or a dislodged slate causing the water to run off and hit something flat below, like a piece of brick or stone. He listened to the rhythmic sound for a few moments and then let it fade away. At his feet the fire blazed brightly once more and he watched the flames flicker and curl, the log succumb eventually to its fiery death as the red heat crept almost sensuously along its length, embracing and devouring, turning substance to ash. For an hour he watched the wood fall to nothingness, while somewhere in the back of his mind he pondered again on his ability to magnify the smallest of changes, to see that which had apparently been hidden before.

He sighed, as if coming out of a deep meditative state and the candles flickered as his soft breath wafted and circled around them.  He shifted his gaze to the wax trickling down the side of one and pooling on the old beam of the mantelpiece and, as he looked, the flame once again stilled and he saw an aura around it; a second tear-drop of light surrounding, almost protecting, the first, but less dense and more orange of colour.  He felt mesmerized, as if watching a rosebud come to bloom in seconds rather than days and without blinking, he lifted his arm to one side. As he did so, he caught a momentary suggestion of colours; deep blue and a hint of purple perhaps? Black tinged with iridescent green? Like sun shining of dark feathers.  A small, pleasurable laugh escaped him. Relaxing his arm he looked back at the candle flame.  How strange he felt. How different the world around him had become.

 

II

Dawn came pale and watery, as if someone had painted crude brush strokes across the sky, smearing the grey until the colour had been all but leeched out, leaving behind streaks of white. Finally the sun rose, the colour of rose quartz and the layers of cloud melted away. Between them patches of blue began to appear. All this he saw in his mind’s eye long before he stepped outside the cottage and felt the first hint of warmth on his cheeks. Day break. The night had fled. The air was fresh, the land awakening.

He drew himself up, his black hair stirring in the gentlest of breezes, his muscles flexing, fingers spread like wing tips. He wanted to run then. To run and feel the air currents around him. To run and..... He smiled briefly, wistfully, his dark eyes dancing at the thought. Not yet. No, not yet.

Slowly he turned and looked at the cottage that had been his shelter for – how many nights? He couldn’t remember. It didn’t seem to matter.  His days were spent up on the hills and the open moors, up among the crags and ridges, moving from one high point to another, noting everything and this neglected little building was simply a place to spend the hours of darkness. All creatures needed somewhere to rest.

Across the fields a spiral of smoke was drifting up on the air, carrying with it the smell of cooking food. Was he hungry? He thought he should be. He couldn’t remember eating since .... No, he couldn’t remember and yet his body seemed not under-nourished, his stomach not cramping with hunger. Besides, what to eat? He could think of nothing to whet his appetite.  Food had, temporarily, become as unimportant as the world he once knew. Casting such thoughts aside he closed his eyes and drank in the air around him. The earth smelled good; watered with rain and wholesome. Yet the ground itself cloyed at his feet.  Fettered him. He needed stone and rock and space.

With the sun rising, his spirits lifted also and he set his face to the hills, where the lichens clamped themselves to the stone and the silver streams tinkled down through the bracken and the buzzards mewed as they circled overhead, their cries speaking of wind and sky and loneliness.  A sound he chose to ignore.  It did not resonate his being.  Being. New Being. The words flitted in and out of his head as the little birds flitted about the gorse and heather on the steep slopes where his walk took him. Today he went further, higher, off the beaten path, his increasing sure-footedness taking him up onto the rugged peaks and for much of the day he stood on the very edge of precipices, gazing down into the valleys, while the sun carved an arc overhead and the wind filled his ears with subtle music.

He could see everything. Yesterday he had concentrated his vision on things closer to hand; the lichens and mosses, the insects, the imprint of an animal’s foot, the colour of the rocks. Today his gaze was directed out and down. He saw everything that moved, everything that crawled or slithered, that scuttled or scurried. He saw the sheep, the fox, the rat, the snail, the worm. Distance appeared no obstacle, bright sunlight no barrier. He was looking with eyes that were not his. Or were they? And yet .... it still wasn’t enough.

The sun began its slow descent into the west, throwing the slopes into shades of smoky blue, grey and charcoal. He breathed deep and it was as if he rushed back into himself, becoming heavy and earthbound again. Imprisoned. The old questions and doubts resurfaced. New Being? Was he? Could he ever be? Last night he had stared into the candle flame and felt the change. He had seen the colours of his aura and been thrilled. Now he was uncertain and frustrated. Something was wrong – no, something was missing. He didn’t know how to make it happen.

It was dusk when he returned to the cottage. The sky was an azure blue. He paused to take in the colour and was then seized by a sudden thirst. Against one of the walls stood a water butt, filled almost to the brim from the previous rain and he strode over to it, to duck his head fully beneath the surface. The water was cold, refreshing. It ran down his neck and chest as he came up with a slight gasp that turned to an amused little laugh. Cupping his hands, he scooped up several mouthfuls and drank heartily before taking a step back and shaking the droplets from his black hair.

 

“Oh just look at you.” It was a female voice and it was deep with emotion – pleasure, humour, desire.  He cast about, anxiously seeking the source, but then from the further end of what had once been the garden, she appeared like an apparition, as slender as he was muscular, as fair as he was dark. The sky was turning to purple, stars already glittering and mist was seeping down off the hill, settling like a blanket in the already darkened valley.  She stopped before him and a smile danced on her lips as she licked them in a suggestion of pleasurable anticipation.  His face appeared slightly luminous, as if his skin had stored up the light of the day and was now reflecting it back at her. His hair, still sparkling with droplets, was as feathered shadow around his cheeks and eyes. And such eyes. Like beads of jet, sharp, piercing, bright and mysterious. Tentatively she reached up a hand to touch him and her bejewelled fingers caught a last shred of evening light that caused a momentary flash between them. It brought another smile to her rose-tinted lips. Her breath was warm and shallow as her fingertips trailed the soft beard of his jaw and neck. The water had made patterns of the hair, channelling it into shaggy feather shapes about his throat. On tip toe she leaned forward and kissed a spot just below his ear, licking away a teardrop of water and a shiver went through him.

“You don’t remember me, do you?” she sighed, but without disappointment.  Her stare was uncomfortable. It was as if she was ‘reading’ him, trying to look inside him.  “Shall we go in? You need to rest.”

“Do I?” His voice sounded croaky, constrained, not his. He hadn’t spoken aloud in some days and he frowned to himself.
“Yes, my love. You do.”  More confident now, she linked her arm through his and half-turned them towards the cottage, but he resisted.
“It’s warm tonight.  Let’s stay here.”
She cocked her head at him, seemingly bemused by the suggestion, but then cast him that radiant smile that made him instantly grasp at fleeting memories.
“As you wish”, she murmured agreeing easily and seeking out a suitable patch of grass, sat down cross-legged and held out a hand to him.  More slowly he lowered himself down beside her, but could not meet her gaze for long and cast his attention to the rising hill in front of them, now a silhouette against the deepening sky.  Somewhere down in the valley an owl screeched and it was answered by another further away.
“It’s so beautiful, isn’t it?”  Her voice, her sigh were whispered.
“How can you tell?” he responded churlishly. “It’s too dark to see.”
She shook her head at him without any sign of irritation.  “Come now, you can feel it.  You have felt it?”
“Felt what?”
“This!”  She spread her hands to either side and pressed her palms down on the grass. There was a light in her eyes, of excitement and pleasure and knowing. “It pulses. It breathes. It lives. Feel it, my love. Feel it.”
Love.  That word again. Yet this woman was not using it cheaply. There was an earnestness about her – a sincerity – that moved him.  My love.
“You really don’t remember, do you?” A measure of concern crept into the silken voice now. Abruptly he looked away, digging deep for the memories that were still too elusive.  For a moment there was silence between them.

“The sweetness of repose, the delightful vicissitudes of night and day, the early sweetness and spring of the morning, the perfume and beauty in the cool of the evening.”


She was quoting, he knew that, but not from what or by whom.

“What shall I think when the winds blow, the seas roar, the waters flow, the vapours ascend, the clouds fly, the drops of rain fall, the stars march forth in armies, the sun runneth swiftly round the world?”


He frowned, his forehead creasing deeply, his eyes black now in the melting twilight, riveted on the near distance, the point where the hill on which they sat dropped away towards the first valley.

“Corvus.”

His head snapped back, his straight hair flapping against his cheek.
“What?”  The word was barely audible, but the question was there in his startled expression. She couldn’t resist the urge to reach up and smooth the locks from his face.
“It’s grown long,” she said, staring at him, “and your eyes have turned colour.  What do you see?”
“Everything.”  The answer came as an exhalation of held breath.
“Tell me.”
“I see........ from on high, everything below. I hear things from far away. I perch on the rocks and the world is mine.”
There was such an expression of understanding from her then, of utter pleasure for him, that he thought she might cry.
“But it’s not right,” he continued in quiet frustration. “I cannot – “
“Hush.” She put a finger gently to his lips. “You will.  When it is complete. Come.”  As nimbly as a lamb, she swept to her feet and he rose with her, all hesitancy and uncertainty gone.  All that remained were questions.

Wordless she led him inside and scanned the sparsely furnished room. Seeing the candles, she lit them one by one until their yellow glow held them in their circle of light. As the flames steadied, so did their breathing and their heartbeats. There was once again stillness and silence.
“Look at me,” she said and he turned his face to hers, her blue sapphire eyes meeting his jet ones.
“Think,” she whispered.  “Remember.”
He exhaled long, trying to clear his mind of all but what she wanted him to recall.

 ...........it was full summer. Trees verdant with leaf, meadows carpeted with wild flowers, streams gurgling beside aged hedgerows.  And a sky so blue. The blue of her eyes.  The grass was the green of the dress she wore now; a dress woven with patterns of leaf and twig, the tendrils intertwining in an ancient form that followed the curves of her body in a never-ending whorl that, time and again, drew the gaze back to her beautiful breasts. Yet it was not lust he felt. It was knowing.  This woman, this being was not of this earth. She was the Earth.  Bound up with the hills and valleys, the rivers and springs, the trees and grasses, the warmth of summer and the cold of winter. She was Earth-Bound. She had chosen –

 He started at the shudder of revelation that went through him. An icy knife blade slicing through the smoke of confusion and peeling back the layers of memory. She had chosen the Earth, while he .... The air. The wind. The sky. The cliffs and high places.  Flight.
“Yes, my love.”
His tongue clove to the roof of his mouth, deprived him of speech. Corvus Corax. He remembered. Everything came back in a rush.  The discovery of the ancient books.  The weeks spent reading, deciphering.  The long discussions.  The excitement quickly followed by the uncertainties, the doubts and the fears.  The decision.   Yes, and finally the ritual.
“It worked?”  Again his voice sounded not his own.
“Almost.  It will.  But you have to believe. You do believe, don’t you?”
He stared at her, at the flaxen hair, the eyes of blue, the slim yet gently curvaceous body, the dress that seemed almost a part of her, like a second skin that almost shimmered with life.

“I am the hills and forests. I wander unseen. I move with the deer and the badger. I hear the songs of the birds and answer in song. I chose this way.”


“As I chose mine.” He sighed deeply, suddenly weary and she frowned at him with genuine concern.
“Sleep,” she said.  “Lie with me.  Tomorrow all will be as it should be.”
Like two creatures of the wild wood, they snuggled close before the empty hearth, he cradling her head against his shoulder and she throwing a protective arm around him, wrapping them in a blanket of warm, autumn leaves.

  


III

 

“Do you feel it now?” she asked quietly, expectantly. “Do you see?  Do you believe?”
He let out a shallow breath and then drew another, slowly, steadily. The walk up onto the hills had caused his pulse to race, as it always did, in anticipation. Yet today felt different. Today – this morning, this bright blue cloudless morning – he knew was different.  He stood naked on the precipice, the golden light bathing his body and the deep valley below.  Woods, streams, sheep, tracks, all so far below, while the peaks rose up to meet the sky. Yet today he was not concerned with what lay below, but what lay before.
“I feel it,” he murmured, closing his eyes for a moment.
“Then believe. Take the leap of Faith.”
Her gaze was full of an excitement barely contained, while his was now distant, focused on things he alone could see.  He was tingling with anticipation again.  A vibration – a force – so vital, so compelling he could no longer resist and in an instant he had stepped off the edge into nothingness. 

Suddenly he was alone.  So totally alone.  He was falling – no!  The world was receding, racing away from him while, with wings outstretched, he soared upwards into the heavens.

“Fly, my love. Fly.”  Her words of encouragement floated to him on a current of warm air that took him spiralling over the hill.  He was giddy with the excitement, the speed, the flight. The whole world lay before him; fields and rivers, hills and hedgerows, while all around him was the music of the wind, the strength and warmth of the air currents that carried him. Flipping onto his back, he gave out a chock chock of sheer delight and then swept down, gliding, flapping his wings, exulting in his new being. He was transformed.  Corvus Corax. And there below him, pulsating with the unseen life force of the rock on which she stood, was his Earth Spirit.  So easily now he flew down to her, seeing her eyes glistening with tears of joy.  With a caw of acknowledgement he alighted on her outstretched wrist.

“My love,” she whispered, stroking his breast feathers with gentle fingers.  “My Raven.”

 

  

 Quotations from:  Centuries of Meditation by Thomas Traherne ?1636 - 1674

 

                                                    A Summer Evening

It's early evening; most people still on their laborious way home from work. The heat of the day seems hardly to have abated. Were it not for the deliciously soft breeze against your back, blowing across the sun-seared moor, it might almost be too much to bear, out here in the open. Shade there is, afforded by hawthorn and alder, but to move into the relative coolness would mean leaving the river. And the river today is glorious.

 On the further side, beds of reeds, emerald and blade-like, rustle softly, the wind gently sighing, whispering through leaves. Unseen, but never far away, coots and moorhens dabble beneath the banks, an unexpected sharp cluck disturbing the quietness. Or else a 'plop' midstream snatches the eye, but you're not quick enough to catch the quicksilver leap of a fish. Ripples on n a broken surface reveal the only evidence.

 Silence descends again, lulling you. You draw your gaze away from your book, too distracted to read. You'd rather watch the dragonflies perform their aerial displays or the dark-winged demoiselles jitter and jive in an impromptu dance. Like tightrope walkers they alight on the spear tips of rushes and pirouette like winged ballerinas. The words on the page cannot compete.

 You wait. You stare at clouds mirrored in the water's surface, at shoals of minnows wriggling at the river's edge, at lazy bees riding on the light air. Another plop. More ripples. Butterflies barely in control of their flight, it seems, hover over tufts of grass, settle on the shingle strand, peek at the water and flutter away.

 Harsher now, the cackle of the magpies, chit-chatting amongst themselves as they swoop from tree to tree across the scrubby moor. Then one takes flight and soars above the river, gliding on the breeze, the sun shining through its wings. For just a moment it hangs there, no longer the squawking, noisy exhibitionist, but a Chinese paper kite, drifting up into the clear blue sky.

 You return to your book. Another chapter read, but the river pulls you back. The sun sinks a little lower, blazes golden into your face. You reach for your water bottle, slake your thirst, notice the bobbing of a grey wagtail. Cautiously it picks its way along the shoreline. You sit, still and fascinated. A wood pigeon launches itself from a nearby willow and the wagtail disappears.

 Across the moor, where grasses bleached the colour of straw sway like waves and thistle and ragwort view for space between the browning gorse, more birds flit and chirrup in amiable flocks. You watch them; Whitethroats and Warblers, Tits and Chiffchaffs, yet just as you have them in your sight, they vanish into the foliage and all you have left is their twittering. 

 More flies now. The fish are jumping as if in competition. The ripples widen and a moorhen paddles from its hideaway and sails towards the rushes lining the far bank. In moments it is once again hidden. You close your book, slip it back into your bag. In the distance a train rumbles passed, making you glance involuntarily at your watch. You haven't eaten since lunchtime and the shadows are lengthening. But it's so comfortable here ...

 You sit up and stretch, basking in the beauty of Mother Nature and then slide languidly down the bank. The water is cool across your bare, hot feet.  Silver-bodied tiddlers disperse like a firework burst, scattering in all directions, as if someone has tossed a handful of gravel before them. A little further, a little deeper. Your legs aren't burning any more and you sigh with pleasure, stand looking downstream, just for a moment part of the river, part of another world. Smiling, you retreat to the smooth, shiny grass, in tune once again with the leaping fish and the birdsong. Should you close your eyes now? Stretch out and let yourself drift away on the warm back of a summer's evening?

 Rustling in the bullrushes. Not coot or moorhen. Not duck. A snicker. A snorted breath. Your can hear the grass being torn up, munched and chewed. Still a distance away, a herd of cows are moving slowly, eating a swathe through the scrub, lazily wading into the river, grazing on reeds and grasses alike, tails swishing against the flies. Closer they come, their short-sightedness making them unaware of the human in their midst. At last they pause and regard you with simple curiosity; you who blocks their path. For a minute or two the stand-off continues. Then the braver ones inch forward, sniffing and wondering, watching you with big brown eyes. A movement is all it takes and they shy away, some skidding down the bank to the water or skirting around you to wander on across the moor. Those in the river lift heads to nibble the leaves from overhanging branches, churning up the mud in the shallows. A heron, invisible until that moment, lifts into the air and flaps away majestically. 

 Soon the silence and solitude has enveloped you again. The is dipping low. The shadows reach out. The breeze rises and ruffles the grass, the leaves, the river. Flies swarm at the surface, like dust motes in a sunbeam. Another fish jumps. A little Tern eyes the silver bodies from above and the demoiselles continue their dance ..... 

 

Written after a visit to Croxley Common Moor one beautiful summer evening in 2010.