I’ve come for a walk near the woods where we live, down a track I’ve only just discovered and I can’t find the bridge that I’d crossed to get to this mud-sunken field that I’m now wading through. Following the sound of the trickling stream, I come to a stack of trees whose roots have twisted into labyrinths. I’ve no idea where I’m going, other then I’m following this sense of wanting to get even more lost; only so that I can enjoy the delight at being found. Not by another, but by following my sense of where a path leads.
I crouch atop the bank, which runs only centimetres above the not particularly deep - but deep enough that I don’t want to fall in – stream below. I want so much to leap to the other side. Instead I stay balancing on the roots of the trees, as a memory that has yet to die out, of the woman who I might have been many moons ago, or at least from whom I descend, flickers into my thoughts. I feel this woman still taking residence in everywhere that counts: my gut and my heart, though I lack the courage to follow her spirit more in my life, she doesn’t desert me, instead she remains close, for when I remember. Till then, maybe it’s her, who’s keeping me awake at night. Too long I’ve drifted from so many aspects of life that are meaningful to me, as I try and etch out a place in a situation I feel trapped by.
Standing on the edge of the bank, I make an involuntary prayer to the Deva spirits: please, guide me across. When I finish the prayer, the long nettle that’s stretching out from across the other bank, curves to the right, as if moved by an invisible hand.
I pray again; the nettle stays still. I don’t feel brave enough to leap; the water’s cold and the idea of falling in and making my way home drenched this fresh October night, has limited, if any appeal. I move the nettle with a branch to see if it makes a difference. It doesn’t. Then standing, I take of my coat, and jumper and throw them onto the other side of the bank. Now I have to cross: my house keys and phone are in there.
Just as I’m preparing to launch myself across the metre or so wide stream, I hear a crackling sound, as the mulch that I’m standing on gives way. I back away, just in time to avoid a full earth slide of miniature proportions, as the ledge onto which I’d been crouching gives way.
I back away, weaving around the tree to my left looking for another jump point which of course was there all along, two metres away from me on the other side. Here, all I have to do is step across half a metre or so of stream, over the tangled roots, half expecting them to wake and wrap them themselves around me. Then clomping over the nettles to retrieve my things and through the undergrowth and bracken to head home. A home it takes a depressingly short time to retrieve; it’s hard to get too lost these days.
As I make my way back, I sense that woman prowling inside. Not so much running free, but walking, alone, wondering what’s gone adrift. I attempt to supplicate her with occasional howls of joy, and to some extent these are enough to cause a wag of her tail, but what she really wants, is to run loose in real wildness, to make love in the fallen leaves, to make a home out of mud and twigs, to sit with others around a campfire that roars, to howl, sing and cry, and share stories with others. I swear mud beneath the finger nails pertains to this spirit. It's why I'm loathe to remove the dirt from my fingers, if I'm ever lucky enough to be engaging with nature in such a way that some finds its way stuffed up there; maybe if I let it stay, the thinking goes, alchemy’s bound to happen and my life will be transformed.