Sunday, 22 February 2009

By the water

I'd dreamt of getting away this weekend, perhaps even abroad. It didn't work out. There was too much to do, even if I could have made arrangements for a teenager and cat. But on Saturday sunshine arrived and by afternoon I was filled with a restless desire to walk - away from the house and the shops and towards the river.

I wasn't the only one. Walkers ambled, runners jogged and cyclists overtook both. Dogs were alert to every movement or tired and eager to reach home. Canoeists were checking their boats. A fisherman flicked his rod in the air - there was a slim shimmer of silver so lovely that I found it hard to remember that, for the fish, this elegant movement was death and pain.

Passing the lock, I reached the point where the canal meets the river. A cacophony of birds greeted me. I know few bird calls but recognized the sound of Canada geese - out of sight but very near, hidden by the tangle of scrawny winter undergrowth. For all the sunshine there was little sign of Spring.

I followed the path, always looking toward the river with its moorings for launches and narrow boats. I caught sight of a familiar black bird. As I watched, it dived beneath the water. The surface of the water shivered for ages and I followed the movement till the bird surfaced again, half hidden by branches. Some kind of cormorant, I thought, or a shag. It looked like those I'd seen on the Northumberland coast or out on the Farne Islands. I watched it for a while and took a photo but the bird was a blur. I wasn't even sure I'd captured the right bird.

I tried to notice everything so that I would remember it: the shine of the water, the delicate screen of parallel twigs, the sense of being free and not quite certain where I was. But already much of it has vanished. There are photos as prompts - and I haven't forgotten the hunched and sulky heron, by the stump of a leafless tree in the water, glaring at an insouciant white gull that perched on a nearby branch.

Eventually my walk led to the nature centre and cafe. I bought postcards, tea and a slice of Dundee cake and rested till the centre closed. The staff were tired - no-one had expected a busy day in February but the lure of sun and water was too strong. As I left, I saw my first snowdrops of the year - a small clump of raggedy flowers that had pushed its way through dust and twigs and survived the recent frost. After that first clump, I saw more until, suddenly, on a tended lawn by the church, there was a carpet of snowdrops and pale mauve crocuses. Still February, but almost Spring.

A rustle of wings distracted me. I looked up and watched as the heron shrugged its way awkwardly across the sky.


katie said...

Postcards! I love postcards...

Elizabeth McClung said...

It looks like a really great day, the sort of wonder spring day where it is 'new' sunshine and everything is made new again in the world and in memories. Thanks for the pictures, and the description, I wish I could have wheeled with you.