11.2.18 Hidden footpath
I turned right instead of left and went the long way home. I have longed for this place and avoided it like a cursed thing. I used to come here every day when my legs were better behaved. I have sat cross-legged on the path and drawn the trees in charcoal and written secret words on slips of paper and hidden them in hollows. I have walked its length a few hundred times and one glorious summer I even ran it, sunlight through trees making me laugh, breathlessly, hopelessly. We have a history.
It cuts along the boundary of our estate in one meandering line, hidden unless you know it's there. It is an edge place: dirty and riotous and wonderful. The trees are young in tree years and they grow where they please. In the green months, it heaves out a hedgerow unique to places like this, the prim botanist's favourites all jumbled up with deeply urban life. It is a place of hooded dog walkers and cyclists and litter and graffiti and all manner of good, wild things.
It is here I returned to today, on the mobility scooter that more reliably serves as legs these days. It must have been two years. Three, even. It had got bigger in my mind in my absence, like an unsettling dream. I think I had worried I would come back and no longer fit it, and so I stayed away.
I go slow. There isn't a soul here and so I let myself move my wheels at a crawl, face to the sky. All is bare and dark, ivy black and bramble brown, the only bright colour from carrier bag and spray paint. Birch trees cradle the path like boned fingers. It is a dead and hollow place and my love of it rushes back in a wave. Soon, I know, it will grow back thick, lush and hungry, and swallow up our uncare, but until then, it is a good time to come back feeling small and ashamed and repentant.
The trees make my ceiling and I can see every lung line of them. I can see them breathe. My feet don't touch the ground but I am as rooted as they are. There is nothing but glowering sky and branch. I am held in the giant nest of it and as it starts to hail, I feel perfect. Weatherwitch. Tree friend. I know this language and it doesn't leave me out. I can't believe now that I thought it would.
When the blackbird comes into my path, I imagine for a moment that it will take to my shoulder right there and then, in forgiveness and benediction, and there we will go onwards, just like that, all things in their rightful place again. A jogger passes and startles it before it can, my unexpectedly young face, kind and happy under my deep hood making him miss a step, and I beam like a mischievous gnome, all freckle and delight. This is what I am and everything around me, the patter and the sway of it, says yes, yes you are, and I am home.
I let myself take only a few careful photographs before I turn away: a promise to come back, to myself and to all of it.
I will do, soon.