The sky is the kind of blue you remember from childhood, paler on the horizon and deepening towards the zenith. Wisps of cloud looking more like puffs of smoke, drift sparsely by high above.
The branches of the trees are etched clearly against the sky. Leaves blurring their stark outline and dappling the sunlight, make patterns on the ground around me that shift and change.
I feel a breeze on my skin. It comes from behind me, rippling its caress, wrapping cool fingers around my body. Gentle as a whisper, welcome variety from the warmth of this late spring day.
When the wind has finished with me it stirs the tips of the grasses all around. Its path is shown in its passing, then all becomes still, as before. This zephyr brings perfumes, a mixture which is hard to separate. Natural scents of grass and trees blend with those brought by humans.
There’s the raucous noise of a distant two-stroke motor tearing the tranquility of my afternoon. A chainsaw or leaf-blower perhaps, some labour-saving tool. It stops, the sound of children playing and random birdsong reassert their dominance of my immediate senses.
I have been sitting here for ten minutes before I’m delighted to notice the family of tiny birds arriving at and leaving from a hole in the stump of a dead tree. The tree is a cedar, massive and probably very old. It has several huge branches which are still alive, and also some which are dead and hollow. These birds, I don’t know the type, are busy today.
People walk past me. Some pushing prams or strollers, some walking alone, in couples, and in small groups. There are cyclists, they race down the hill enjoying the relief that gravity brings, and they travel up the hill, ponderously or attacking, depending on mood and/or fitness.
I arrived here by bicycle, it stands propped up against my bench. Cycling for me has become the exercise mode of choice recently, replacing swimming which has become somewhat problematic since the pools have been closed. It is also my new perspective on the world. I move along the streets of my town watching the people and observing patterns. It is a fascinating way to see things.
This is a strange time. When freedom of movement was curtailed I refused to accept that it included me. I have observed every day of this, I have seen the motorways deserted as I drove two hundred miles of non-essential travel on one trip, and I have felt the resentment as my empty roads have gradually filled up with others again.
The feeling during these few months has been one of relief and peace. Somehow, it seems that pressure has been lifted from me, that the responsibility is not mine anymore. I’m not sure why this should be but it reminds me of another time in my life, a moment before I loaded myself up with stuff. The pressure of children, the weight of mortgages, the burdens of being an adult, and I’m nostalgic for that time.
Of course, those things are also the reason I can live as I do. My previous hand to mouth existence, when all I needed to do was find enough money to provide for my drug habit was not idyllic, and freedom from it was all I desired for what seemed like forever. As soon as I had chosen something different I moved relentlessly onward, which I suppose is my way. Any other life would not be authentically mine.
But there was a brief time between those two modes of existence when I sat, as I am today, and observed and wrote. It is that time of peace that is calling to me. No one wanted anything from me, it was freedom of a kind I haven’t known since. At times I could weep for it, and while there is not one thing in my present that I could say I’d be happy to have missed out on in order to return there, still I’m sad. Loss of innocence is like that.
Right now I am deeply happy, there’s a smile close to the surface always promising to break through. It may seem irreverent at this weird, solemn time when we’re told this doom laden story which runs so counter to my intuition. Smiling and being happy may be viewed with disapproval like shouting in a library or laughing at a funeral, but it’s my chosen state.
You can join me there, it’s a simple choice away.