Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Acting on the memory of that path

Down by the lakes. Where the ice has melted. At the end of the bridge where a camera waits for a woman in black to run towards it. The thudding of the feet on the metal slat. Boats down below. The water did not freeze. I hear one of the camera men say "She is self-conscious". Many people filter by as the camera waits for the runner. The grass is sodden and squelches, the build up of ice having suddenly given way and seeped into the earth. All is moveable. Mud.

I let myself in through the gate and I am now sitting in the paddock seperated out by a waist-high woooden bar that is fixed for some distance, then cut, angled a little, fixed for some distance more and then cut until it describes a rough oblong inside of which are placed the remaining two black plastic tables with adjoining seating rivetted deep into the ground on concrete slabs. The third table has not been here for some time, burned to the ground. To get to my table I cross the pebble path that dips here and there into pools of mud water. I then veered off across the fields sinking ankle high into the mud on each step. I have eased myself into the seating, my knees under the table, my hands on the rough plastic surface which is built out of strats to resemble the wooden strats of its equivalent not put here purposely because of the changeable weather conditions and risk of fire.

There is water at my feet, the bottle tops and what-nots floating or sinking depending on consistancy. I pin my feet to either side of the puddle on the revealed concrete. Later with the sun directly absorbing on to the table surface and directly on my face too, I lean back, wedging my thighs against the inner moulding of the table so that my back is extended outwards and almost level with the table surface. My face is now far back. I push my fingers through the intervals of the strats gripping them from underneath. Then I let go. The pressure between the tops of my thighs and the moulding of the underside is incredibe. Flesh and plastic are jammed together. One slip and I`d be on my back. Right there in the mud.

I hear birds in the bushes, everything beginning to be up and running after the freeze. People are on the bridge streaming over it as the sun already begins to sink at three oclock in the afternoon on this Sunday.
I can hear the tap of the tennis ball, surge of laughter, group singing that swells and then dies, feet on the main path that runs alongside the canal awash with colour with dogs breaking free. Sounds are drawn out and linger in this wet perspiration that remains above and below ground and seeps ino the atmosphere, catches on the breath that only adds to it.

The marshes are a sponge through which people wade. A child lifts up her brown trouser legs and tiptoes deep into the mud with rubber boots to protect her. She is wearing a light pink quilted jacket that ends at the waist-line of her trousers. She is making slow progress, lagging behind from the adults up ahead and the dog with its large nose inches above the water. A couple slide under the bar and make it to the other table placed paralel but some distance away to the one which I occupy. He lies flat on his back over the length of the table top following the line of strats, his body at the far end bending over, feet unmoved, still in the mud.
The woman sits on the plastic bench her back to the table looking out into the long stretch of marshland, trains in the distance. Neither of them speaks or moves. Then they do. He is cradling her head in his hands his feet on the bench now either side of  her body. She leans far back and he peers over until they are kissing. They are a black silhouette, indiscernable apart, the sun in the background just above the trees over on the hill on the other side of the canal.

A pram pushes out through the foliage just past the man-made pond. It is running on uneven ground so it is pushed with a curt thrust until the body meets with the handle bars then again drives it forward cutting a groove deep into the clay. Sometimes there is a rolling back and forth to establish the level ground below the shifting muds so that the wheels become rotary diggers in order to build up momentum where the land slightly rises before dipping once again. That pram is pushed by a man suited in black. He wears a hat and a white shirt reveals itself beneath the black. He has a heavy set deep rich brown and full beard below a pale open face. He is a member of the Hassidic Jewish community well established in this area. Next to him but sometimes just behind is a woman who is holding a child loosely at her waist so that the body of the child swings freely against her loose and moveable arm and the outspread hand so that it is only at the hips that they are joined so tightly. She is struggling with heavy set black shoes below her stockinged ankles and a skirt wrapped and flapping over her knees. They manage to wade past the outer periphery of the fencing  that surrounds the tables and chairs. They are heading out beyond the place of the silhouetted couple, her head in his hands, where the ground opens up to marshland. Here there used to be a path and I think they are acting on the memory of that path even though it is no longer there since the big thaw after the ice.

He is pushing and jamming the pram over what is more and more like a constant river, not merely a puddle here and there. She has gone on ahead and is beginning to veer around the outline foliage where the ground is a little higher before it turns into impassable scrub avoiding the normal route of the path which is now underneath the water. Suddenly her black stockinged foot comes up, revealed as the shoe remains where she set her foot down in the mud. It is submerged in the the water that rushes in to fill the vacuum. She freezes with her leg in the air. Then she is laughing as the bearded man with the pram on the other side of the water looks on. By now I have turned around. I smile as well. Somehow they manage to continue and to disapear through the marshland between the scrub. The camera crew arrive and navigate the water and mud, hoisting the camera and its metal leg on to their shoulder to carry it over the breach. The woman in black who was the runner on the bridge has supermarket bags fasted to each shoe. They squelch and crinkle in the mud.
I cannot remember if they were there when she was on the bridge.

Some time later the Orthodox Jewish couple with the pram return the way they came. That probably means that further up there is no way of getting through.

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