Monday, 14 May 2018

Paradise Regained…

So let extend thy mind o’er all the world,
In knowledge, all things in it comprehend.

It was an email from my good friend Paolo that did it. Not directly, of course. Just a little nudge; which, in turn, morphed into a diminutive, but nagging, suggestion; which, gnawing at a widening area of brain-cells, wouldn’t let go. Thirty minutes later, I had changed into some light walking trousers, a thin T-shirt, and a medium-weight fleece. (Although the only marks in the sky were man-made – the number of planes travelling over Tysoe having seemingly increased in the last year or so – the Met Office warned of northerly twelve mile-an-hour winds: making seventeen Celsius feel like fourteen.)

Thus attired, I pulled on my socks (which, for me, means several minutes of agonized acrobatics); followed by a snug pair of boots. A bottle of water added to my always-ready-to-go rucksack (replete with medication; emergency mobile phone; and other necessary implements); my well-worn and -travelled walking stick retrieved from my car; my faithful, faded baseball cap pulled down over my still-bed-mussed hair; and I was ready to go. (A look caught sideways in the hall mirror revealed that my image was not dissimilar to that of Edmund Hillary, straddling Everest’s peak… – probably not helped by the large sunglasses I wear wontedly on such occasions, nor the fact I desperately need a shave.)

Thus prepared for any adventure that might cross my path, I strode out – slowly – into the (very) fresh air. The only question, now – after eight-and-a-half months of medically-enforced ‘leisure’ – was where to go. A flat (and therefore easy(ish)) circuit around the village: to the church and back? Or even further: to Lower Tysoe? Of course, there was always the windmill… – but this really did feel like a challenge too far: especially as I had not tackled any sort of incline in all that time (nor felt inclined so to do); and my left leg (which I frequently lose contact with, particularly descending any sort of slope: its neurological pathways to my brain frayed and forlorn at the best of times) had been miserably misbehaving all weekend.

Yet he who reigns within himself, and rules
Passions, desires, and fears, is more a king.

Thus it was – well over thirty minutes later – that I was to be found leaning not quite breathlessly against the aforementioned building’s sturdy wooden door: having joyfully achieved my personal worst time for the ascent – water in hand (and mouth); grin on face; sweat on forehead (thus gaining some concerned gazes from the grazing ewes – their lambs, though, freshly horned, taking obvious pleasure in the novelty of my appearance).

I had happily paused… to follow the spiral trail of a buzzard, frequently mewing its changing location to its nesting partner; to glory in the richness of cow parsley and dandelion lining the field boundaries; to be startled by a squat oak sapling sheltering beneath the hedge; to marvel at a glider, rising, buzzard-wise, amongst the paling grid of contrails (a stridency of saltires scarring the space above me). My limbs and lungs complained, in vain – except for the sensible provision of Salbutamol; and the respite I was now savouring.

Unfelt, too, was their hurt: such was my awe. Perched on my writing stool, now, though, all such aches are present, unpleasant, and incorrect. But I care not one jot! I walked. I even walked up a hill! And, for me, that monticule felt proudly Everest-shaped and -statured: both in the challenge and the reward. It was enough; and it cannot be undone. Quietly, therefore, I rejoice.

And now the sun with more effectual beams
Had cheered the face of earth, and dried the wet
From drooping plant, or dropping tree…

Returning via the Epwell Road, I was surprised at the earth’s solidity after so much recent rain. I should have been more aware, more cautious: my belief – mere fantasy – almost had me done for; that “solidity”, in places, a mere custard-skin, thinly coating the ploughed clay, securing “The force that through the green fuse drives the flower” deep beneath. Combine this life-liquid with the warm photons kindling the crops’ seeking crowns, and it is no wonder that the oilseed rape so flourishes (and so coats our mucus membranes, readily priming our mast cells for the nasal explosions to follow – no hay, yet; but certainly much fever…).

In the wheat-field below, I put-up a skylark. As guilty as I felt for treading – albeit in the tractor’s sculpted prints – so close that it felt the need to lure me from its nest’s whereabouts, the torrents of tumbling song, the rising pirouettes and whirls, filled my heart with a parcel of happiness, the like I had not held for too long a time. Wreathed in birdsong – the collective braiding of blackbird, thrush, robin, wren, finch, and wood pigeon… – at the bottom of the hill, swallows swirled around me in similar jubilation; whilst collared doves repeated their insistent courting and cooing: partnered, ’though not yet nested.

In the background, the mowing of sweet grass: scent (and pollen) carried on the cooling breeze. From the garden hedge, the chattering and cheeping of fledgling sparrows, still hungry for their parents’ attention. Inside, a well-deserved mug of tea and celebratory slice of homemade raspberry sponge-cake….

Thither he bent his way, determined there
to rest at noon; and entered soon the shade
high roofed, and walks beneath…

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