Mud; mud everywhere. Even now, as I set down the tale, my stained notebook sheds crumbled earth, which lodges between the keys of my Mac.
We crossed Bramley Road and entered a wild place. Within sight of the Tube Station, we glimpsed the scut of a rabbit disappearing amongst frozen molehills. The air so cold it almost crackled. You shattered the pond ice with your stick. Out of the undergrowth a magpie bounced like clockwork.
First Sorrow. We lost ourselves in marshy scrubland populated by saplings, the ditches deep and the way unclear. “This may be London, but man is not the master here” you said. “But surely humans must have harvested the brushwood and the withies into heaps?” After ferocious brambles, bogs and swift streams forded, I slipped and fell, my downfall presaged by the squawk of the bright-eyed watching bird.
I became an anorak island, lying in a soft mud sea. Cushioned by rucksack, I stared at a steely, twig-laced sky. You helped me up. A black and white dog bounded out of the wood (a magpie transmuted by Joy) – tail wagging, mud-splattering. Encrusted already, we didn’t care.
We passed the hollow doorway of a generous oak. Over the threshold, a cobweb dangled a withered leaf.
“Look – an old hedge gone wild.” Branches of woven beech regressed to skyward stretching trees. Beneath, the Babes, a Girl and Boy, might once have nestled, bedded by leaf-bearing birds.
My eye was caught by something Silver. Crouching, I examined a solitary frost-encrusted oak leaf and the sun shone directly into my eyes: a low orb, heavy Gold resting on the horizon. Dusk. We entered the Oak Wood, wandering crepuscular paths. We arrived at the heart. “Now,” you said, “I will tell you a Secret that has never been told.”