The river was in spate with the spring rains, silently surging past the overhanging willows, catching at the tips of the boughs and pulling at them, enticing them to join it, leaving them wanting more. The water here was deep but fast moving. The river was established a long time back in history; it had had time to decide on the course it wanted to follow. Like a bird on the wing, it had scanned the landscape, looking for a simple channel, twisting and turning at times, splitting and re-joining to find the gentler path. In the span it had taken to reach its zenith, the water had taken the large rocks, loosened at its source, and given them the power and energy to travel dozens of miles. It had broken them up, ground them down and sorted them into tilled material as a plough horse would take a moorland intake and transform it into fertile, levelled ground. The stones had worn down everything in their path, knocked out earth from its bank side and scoured away at cascades, until it fell to a steady decline across the valley below.
The noise of the water took my thoughts back to the time when I first met him. A friend had accompanied me on a walk beside the stream, through meadows filled with ox-eye daisies and Yorkshire fog-grass. She had invited along a house guest of hers, a tall, slightly stooped, shy man with soft brown hair touching his brow above misty blue, faraway eyes. He spoke softly as we walked, pointing out the skipper butterfly as it wafted up from the grass heads, sending a soft puff of fertile powder onto the warm breeze.
We met a few times after this; sometimes we hired a wooden boat and glided out across the ripples, other times we just sat at the edge and listened, our hands barely touching but with a feeling of electricity. When the sun was high in the sky we would slip quietly into the cool, soothing waters and bathe amongst the rocks and eddies.
As I passed the overhanging trees, the ripples reflected and twinkled on its smooth bark, as it had on his back after our swims together, when we lay amongst the reeds and let the sun dry our pimpled bodies. My thoughts took me back to the feelings of intense pleasure I had felt with him, his gentle unassuming character mixed with times of heartfelt , deep conversation.
I remembered those rich times now, carefree and simple. In the months that had passed, the river became a place of solace. When emotions would overcome my confused and panicky mind, I would come to it and sit beside the mesmerising rush of strength and energy, watching insects dipping to the surface, finding nourishment in its life-giving elixir. All emotions and negatives forged along with the leaves carried with its flow. Everything was passing from there. I waded into the shallows and stooped over the cool torrent, releasing the clothed bundle I had in my grip. The tightly bound package spun slightly as it moved in a strange unearthly way, cold and rigid. My arms reached out as it swiftly swept away. I watched it jerk in the motion of the water as it was caught up in the flow.
I wanted to fall, my cheeks were cold and pallid, my heart raced, I sank. My knees buckled, my body was limp.
I crawled towards the banks and pulled myself up; the earth on the bank smeared my clothes as I stood. My hands were cold; my breath struggled as I turned my back.
Turned my back – how else could I put it?
A branch caught my cheek, a sharp pain spread across my face as spots of blood fell. The catkins were stained with red as I brushed it away, a red that tainted the scene.
But the tree was letting me know that there was fresh life, a signal of re-birth and re-newel. I scrambled back onto the rough track, pulling my feeble strength to get me away from this place, this river. It was cold to me now, bleak and cloudy but still it gave me a kind of protection, some support.