“The morning will be overcast with frequent showers. They will be heavy at times in the south east but brighter weather will follow later from the west …”
Thus spake the oracle from the radio early one summer morning casting his own black cloud over the hearts of many. I was a keen cyclist in my teens and at many a weekend my schoolmate and I would grease up our cycles and head for the open road. Shoreham was our target this particular day but the voice of doom did not quell our enthusiasm. The weather was kind to us on the way down with the sun occasionally breaking through the gloom above to splash a little watery light on the road ahead and we arrived on the outskirts of the village at around nine o’clock. Passing Samuel Palmer’s old cottage we came upon the bridge and dismounted. After a strenuous exercise, it is a delight to lean upon a bridge and gaze upon the waters emerging from beneath one’s feet. The flow catches the eye and lifts it slowly into the distance and the senses relax to the accompaniment of its music. There weren’t many gnats and midges at that time of day, but those that were about were flying very low indeed. Certainly there was rain about and it wasn’t very far off either for we could just detect the faint scent of it even above the mass of water at our feet. Not wishing to miss any of its quiet charm, we walked our bicycles through the village, and as the sky grew heavy above us, my thoughts turned to my companion’s pet tortoise Horace who had been extremely active earlier that morning, this being a sure sign of approaching rain. We turned down the hill past the Crown Hotel, on past the water mill which was then a tea house (I believe it is now a private dwelling) and out onto the banks of the Darenth.
A damp mist had filtered through the trees on the hill opposite and the grey light had transmuted the upturned leaves of ash and sycamore into flecks of silver that hung without movement in the stillness of the impending downpour. An old weeping willow, pollarded of its crowning glory, leaned out from the bank across the water and as I peered into its dark reflection a crayfish, startled by the leviathan that reared above it, scuttled beneath the smooth stones. As I gazed, the picture was suddenly distorted. A raindrop had followed immediately by another and yet another and soon I was no longer able to fathom the depths. We donned our capes, drew up our knees and huddled against the tree like two diminutive bell tents. Cozy in our little dry islands, the raindrops drummed upon our capes in anger and hissed at us from the river turning it into a boiling cauldron. The mist that had settled among the trees on the hill opposite had drifted on making way for a great veil of rain that spanned the skyline in graceful folds – a grey but beautiful replica of the Aurora Borealis.
As the curtain drifted slowly by, the day grew appreciably lighter and the deluge eased to a steady drizzle. Soon after, the clouds broke a little, and a shaft of pure gold struck the hills, becoming wider at its base as it raced swiftly down the valley. Then the rain ceased as quickly as it had begun and silence, the ethereal beauty of which is always magnified when the rains are over, tumbled into the valley. We sat in silence beside the bubbling waters and for several minutes we watched its breathless pursuit of the shaft of gold.
It is within such a quietude that I sit now jotting down these notes. This morning was a grey but clean smelling morning upon which the hedgerow leaves quivered. It had been raining all night but had stopped just as dawn broke, leaving behind a miscellany of drips and drops, musical and echoing. Each blade of grass had its tip bent by a raindrop and the clothes line was a string of pearls waiting to be spilled upon the lawn by the quick grasp of a starling’s feet. By mid-morning the low cloud had dispersed and great mountains of summer cumulus were heaped about the sky. It was my intention this morning to tackle one or two gardening chores that had been neglected but due to a tiny and insignificant happening, these have yet to be done. As I passed the petunia bed, I bent to pick up an old seed packet that had appeared and my sleeve touched a petunia leaf. Upon this leaf there were three rain drops, and as the leaf was set in motion, the three tiny drops rushed towards one another and merged into one large globule that trembled precariously in the centre of the leaf before rolling off the edge and disappearing into the soil. This tiny happening caused my mind to leap back across the years to remember once more a particular drop of water out of all the millions that must have fallen that day at Shoreham; a single drop of water that has long since been returned to Poseidon from whence it came. We were walking back through the village when we paused awhile beside a cottage garden to discuss our plans. The clouds were now few and the sun was strong in the cleansed sky drawing out the sweet scent of purity from the land. Suddenly, a spark of light leapt from the ground and pierced my eye. So bright was it that it might well have been of solid substance, for it so dazzled the eye that it quite took the breath from me. I stooped to discover the origin of this manifestation and there, within the cupped hands of a lupin leaf was a tiny trembling rain drop. It was a perfect globe clearer than crystal; a gem that would have done justice to the diadem of the most illustrious of monarchs.
So it is that my gardening chores for today have once more been neglected. A rain drop fell from a leaf and in that single drop a flood of memories, memories I felt I had to record, for – they had been pushed so far below the plane of consciousness, that I was afraid they would never have come to the fore again.
read the collected work as it is published: here
beauty & dawn & rain & silence wormhole: The Boats of Vallisneria by Michael J. Redford – Sky
bridge wormhole: Great Bridge, Rouen, 1896
clouds & passing wormhole: slight sneer
eyes wormhole: mandala offering
garden wormhole: A Corner of the Garden at the Hermitage, 1877
gold & grey & leaves & sun & trees wormhole: Lapping Reflections [Deep Within Waters] – I took my camera into the fields
hedge wormhole: it’s / not what you do or what you say / if it ain’t got that swing
light & river wormhole: the Bodhisattva set out / for the Seat of Awakening
mist & morning & sound wormhole: 10/30 by William Carlos Williams
quiet wormhole: quietly in my quiet house
radio wormhole: within
reflection wormhole: in turgid reflection
roads & silver wormhole: Hastings: neither all or nothing
sky & speech & writing wormhole: 11/1 by William Carlos Williams
skyline wormhole: Boulevarde Montmartre, Evening Sun, 1879 // Boulevarde Montmartre at Night, 1879
smell wormhole: prose piece 2 from POEMS 1927 by William Carlos Williams
stillness wormhole: Lapping Reflections [Deep Within Waters] – pigs
stone wormhole: “And anger it is that lays in ruins / every kind of mental goodness.”
water wormhole: Valentine’s Day 2019