Friday, May 11, 2007

le bois.

I tell her when I was a child there was a woman in the apartment next to where I lived. She played the piano. Often, she would practice and particularly on a winter's afternoon, I loved to hear the silver notes hang in the muffled air between the walls. They seemed to tinkle, to turn around on themselves, to call out quietly of some sort of sadness, some sort of longing.

Every summer we would leave the city, would go with the family to a little house we owned on the coast.

I loved to wander off alone, to find the fields behind the house, walk as far as I could into them, stop, look up and spin. Stretching my arms out, I would turn and turn and turn until I would fall. Then I would lie there, watching the sky move about me, watching it swim before my eyes, imagining I could sense the beat of the wings of birds high above me, the stiff grass of the dunes along the strand, smell the glassy sea.

She smiles. Her arm slips through mine. The branches cross our path, the bushes to our side become, thicker. Here, the path is not so beaten away, the undergrowth not so broken.
Suddenly I say to her, 'run'. I hear her ask what I am doing, but I have already broken away.
My feet, awkward at first, move quickly over the ground. The dry, brittle branches snap against my body, their tips brushing and stinging my face. I run, not caring, not knowing why. My breath is sharp in my throat, comes in gasps, and in my chest, my heart begins to thump. The blood presses against my forehead. Behind me somewhere, I hear her footsteps, her voice shouting to me to slow down.

Except for the sound of us crashing through the branches, the occasional call of a bird, there is nothing, only quietness. Then I stop, stop and look up, put my hands into the air.
It has begun to snow in large, soft, twirling flakes. It falls down around me, floats through the heavy sky, seems to arrive, to form unexpectedly out of the greyness, out of the quietness.
It lands on my face, like some energy appearing and evading the network of spindly trees, the tangle of wood, the occasional leaf.
Then I start to spin around, to spin the way I would when I was a child. I move my feet over the rough, cold ground. The sky and the tops of the trees form a circle. Faster and faster, I go. Somewhere inside my head, a voice is saying that I will fall; I do not care.
I spin and spin until I find myself lying on the floor of the wood. Delicately formed snowflakes fall next to me. The dead leaves, the leaves that have not yet rotted into the earth, smell bitter, smell sharp. Against my face, is the firmness, the trueness of the ground; the stillness is complete, the silence, complete.

I am listening, but there is nothing. It is as if there is another level of sound, a level of hearing that has always been there, a level, recovered.
Then she reaches me, comes up beside me. Her cheeks flushed, her hair loose and falling across her eyes. She is gasping, is completely out of breath.
I turn over on my back and begin to smile. She drops down on her knees beside me.

We both begin to laugh in deep, breathless laughs. We lie laughing in this hushed world, the sound of our laughter running up into the white, thickening air, into the snow silently and softly descending around us."

Copyright (C) Peter Millington

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