Thursday, March 20, 2008

leaping not looking

I experience the disorientating and exhilarating feeling of levitation for the first time.

Beforehand, I’m on the return leg of a longish walk through a wet field in Cambridgeshire, blossom and chlorophyll in the air . A man-made lake has burst its banks and is seeping into the grass, which is already lank hay like old hair because of an earlier flood. Twists of translucent plastic, weather-beaten, snake round tree saplings and bamboo shoots in dense rank and file along the meadow-edge, half of them already frostbitten, dead, dying. A few tendrils spiral keenly upward, searching for light. It’s a rare warm day.

The field is muddy in places, so I skip over puddles and bogs and use a broken tree branch as my walking stick. Along the river bank I note a young swan, its feathers not yet fully white, dipping repeatedly under the water for reed saplings. The river is high, and previous storms have brought beer cans and crisp packets up from the depths, filled with silt and stagnant water, and deposited them amongst the bracken and sedge.

Clambering over a stile, heading back, I note there are two routes available; up over the knoll and around or through a short sharp ravine with a metre of sopping mud cut through at the lowest point of the decline. I opt for the latter and begin to run half-pelt down towards it and leap at the last minute, sailing over the bog. My momentum is such that I realise I’ll bounce up again for another, involuntary leap when I hit the other side of the mud, so put my trainer down to cushion the landing.

It’s at this point that I realise I haven’t cleared the mud at all. My foot comes down bang in the middle of it and I feel the heavy squelch as my ankle is enveloped. I pull my foot out instantly and – it seems as if through sheer force of will – extend the jump to take me over to the dry bank. This second jump is wonderful, utterly weightless, freeing, and I hear my laughter ring through the field. I land and slow down, spinning round, looking for my trainer, which is submerged – but still visible – in the cold sludge.

I retrieve it with my stick.

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